Prevention against Summer Risks

Surely everyone wants to enjoy a pleasant summer holiday without health complications. If this is to be achieved, it is useful to pay attention to the preventive advice given by internist MUDr. Hana Sýkorová and complemented by dermatologist MUDr. Aneta Klimešová.

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From your point of view, what are the most common health risks during the summer months?
Most of us are worried about digestive problems. Allergic reactions to unusual foods, the sun or insect bites can also occur. Even in the summer months, colds are not rare. Sunburn often occurs and there is a risk of sun stroke or heat stroke. A separate chapter is the risk of contracting a specific "traveler's" disease, against which there is often a vaccination. Accidents of various kinds are also common.

Leaving aside injuries, for which the best prevention is caution and not overestimating one's own strength, can we discuss prevention for the most common summer risks? First and foremost: How to prevent the risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration? And what to do if these occur?
Heat stroke is usually caused by direct exposure to the sun, especially on the head, overheating the brain. In heat stroke, general overheating of the body occurs through exposure to high temperatures, especially in damp and unventilated environments. Children, the elderly and obese people are particularly at risk. With heat stroke, people with fair hair and skin are also at risk. Both conditions manifest themselves similarly. Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, disorientation or disturbances of consciousness, and sometimes fever. In order to prevent heat stroke and dehydration, it is necessary to avoid excessive exposure to heat,direct sunlight or staying in hot, humid and unventilated areas. Wear appropriate clothing and, when in the sun, headgear, better if damp. You should also drink sufficient fluids regularly, preferably mineral water. In case of sun stroke and heat stroke, it is recommended to place the person in a cool and shady place and to give sufficient fluids according to their state of consciousness, but carefully, in sips. Isotonic drinks or slightly sweetened tea and cold compresses, especially on the head, or cold packs are suitable. For pain, if the person is not vomiting, common analgesics can be used. Sunburnt skin should be treated with an appropriate preparation.

Can you summarize the recommendations to reduce the risk of sunburn? What factor of sunscreen is currently recommended? And what is the best treatment for sunburnt skin?
The risk of sunburn depends on the phototype of each person's skin. The lighter the skin, the more susceptible it is to sunburn. For light phototypes, a sunscreen with a UVA and UVB protection factor of SPF 25-50+ (Sun Protection Factor) is recommended to protect the skin. For darker phototypes, a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 is recommended to prevent adverse effects of radiation. The choice of SPF also depends on the time and place of exposure to the sun, so a higher factor is better in the Mediterranean than in central Europe. Most sunscreens should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure and ideally repeated once more about 15 to 30 minutes after sun exposure has started. Clothing, headwear and sunglasses are also important skin protection. To reduce the risk of sunburn, it is advisable to avoid direct sun exposure, especially around midday or between 11am and 3pm. If sunburn has already occurred, it is advisable to apply after-sun products that have a lubricating function, contain antioxidants and, more recently, DNA repair enzymes that help repair UV-damaged cell DNA.

A common summer problem is indigestion. What causes this most often and what are the tips for prevention? And if it does occur, what are the best remedies to address it?
Probably the most common is an infectious disease of the digestive tract, whether viral or bacterial. However, indigestion can also be associated with an unusual diet that is harder for us to digest, and can also be caused by the aforementioned overheating. Especially in exotic destinations with lower standards of hygiene, it is recommended to eat only food that has been reliably cooked. It is best to eat only fruit that can be peeled and has not been washed with water. It is recommended to drink only bottled water. For example, beware of ice cubes in drinks. In case of digestive problems, an appropriate diet is of course necessary, try to maintain a sufficient fluid intake (tea, isotonic drinks for children, e.g., Kulíšek). For the treatment of diarrhea, probiotics can be recommended, as well as, for example, Smecta or charcoal, Endiaron or the better acting Ercefuryl, which is available on prescription. If the diarrhea is not severe or there is no blood in the stool, Imodium/Loperon can also be used to reduce the frequency of stools. For nausea or vomiting, a medicine with the active ingredient omeprazole to calm the stomach is suitable, and for vomiting, Torecan suppositories are also suitable. Sometimes a cold and “watered down” cola given by the spoonful can soothe stomach upset. A visit to the doctor is necessary in the case of severe reaction, the presence of blood in the stool or if the person is unable to drink sufficient fluids.

Even in summer, colds are not an exception, especially from air conditioning. Can you advise how to avoid it and what to watch out for?
It is essential to avoid excessively large temperature differences between outside and inside air-conditioned spaces, which applies not only to buildings but also to cars. The maximum difference should be around 5 to 6 °C. You should also not let the air conditioning blow directly on you, especially not directly on your head. Humidifying the air and regularly cleaning the filters in the air conditioner is a separate issue.  

Another summer enemy is ticks or insect bites. Can you advise on effective defenses and tips for dealing with these nuisances?
A good defense is adequate clothing (long pants, sleeves, etc.), checking the skin after coming in from the outside, and using repellents. I recommend vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis. The skin can then be treated with topical disinfectant, antibiotic ointment such as Framykoin, and topical antihistamines (e.g. Fenistil gel).

Finally, can you recommend what is useful to have in the family first aid kit during the summer holidays?
It should not be lacking in medicines to deal with digestive problems, anti-allergics, common analgesics and medicines to lower the temperature. Nose drops in case of colds, medicines for sore throats. Disinfectants to treat minor injuries, possibly also Framykoin ointment, plasters and elastic bandages. And, of course, preparations for treating sunburn. It is advisable to pack an antibiotic (e.g. for women suffering from more frequent urinary tract infections, or in case medical care is not always available). As a precautionary measure, I would also recommend not to underestimate the recommended vaccinations for more exotic destinations.


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