It's summer. Naturally, our top priorities during this fine season include dabbling in the art of alcoholic popsicle making and spending as much time as possible near a body of water. Any thoughts of winter and along with it, illness, have been banished to a far-away part of our brains. But getting sick in the summer does happen, and while it's easier to brush off symptoms in favor of continued carefreeness, doing so can lead to more pain and even a trip to the E.R. (Who wants that?)
To help us decode our summer aches and pains we chatted with Roshini Raj, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at New York University and founder of Tula Skincare. Cross-check your symptoms below to see whether you just need to book it to bed or check in with your doc.
With all the summer BBQs, picnic potlucks, and rooftop happy hours on the agenda, it's not uncommon to experience some mid-section aches in the form of bloating, nausea, or the not-so-cute ... gas. The best fix is, of course, to avoid overloading on alcohol and fatty foods, but if the pain continues for more than a few days, it could be a sign of acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome. "Try cutting out caffeine, citrus fruits, and chocolate for a week and see if discomfort subsides. If it does, it is most likely an acid issue, and you should try to avoid foods that can trigger this. Lactose sensitivity can also manifest itself in these symptoms, so cutting out dairy may also help," Raj explains.
Sand in the Eye
Frolicking in the surf can leave us with the feeling of literally having sand in our eyes. Often a quick flush with water or eye drops can bring relief, but Raj notes that if discomfort persists for more than three to four hours, it could be a sign of a corneal infection. "It's a common problem in the summer, especially if you wear contact lenses. If the feeling comes with redness, blurry vision, or discharge, it's best to check in with a doctor."
These tiny skin dots can crop up after a day of lounging poolside, and they're usually harmless. But even if you get them on the regular, it's best to do a close examination of any new spots. "Skin cancer can sometimes masquerade as a freckle. Decode your moles and freckles by checking them against 5 danger signs: asymmetrical shape, uneven border, change in color, diameter greater than a pencil eraser, and change in shape or size," says Raj. It's also a good idea to book an annual skin check once fall rolls around; the dermatologist can rule out any irregularities.
Again, sometimes the sun imprints us with unusual looking but perfectly benign blemishes. But if you notice any thick, velvety patches that are brown-gray in color, they may be worth a second opinion. "Especially if they are around the neck, armpit, or groin, these spots can be an early sign of diabetes," Raj warns.
Stomach Flu Symptoms
If you've spent time bumming around the public pool and have come home with abdominal aches plus flulike symptoms, you might not want to brush them off. "Pool water brings you into contact with germs that can cause intestinal infections, such as norovirus. Make an appointment if you experience GI discomfort along with fever, dizziness, vomiting, and diarrhea," Raj says.
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