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Your Guide to the Great Outdoors
Tips from local professionals to avoid summer ailments


July 2018

Summer’s here and the time might be right for dancing in the streets, but be sure you’re wearing sunscreen and you’ve taken your antihistamine. The long and lovely days of summer can bring allergies, skin damage and other ailments. This summer don’t let them rule your world. Take some tips from our experts.

Seasonal Allergies

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever and allergic rhinitis, they can make your life miserable, interfering with outdoor activities and keeping you from getting enough rest at night. Completely eliminating exposure to seasonal allergens is probably impossible, but Dr. John Basich of Allergy & Asthma Centers SC in Milwaukee says you can limit your exposure and reduce your symptoms.

“Tree pollen usually appears first, into the month of March, while grass pollen comes later in May. Ragweed season is at the end of July through the first frost,” says Basich. He recommends staying indoors in high-allergen times, if possible, as well as keeping windows closed and the air conditioning on.

“Allergen levels are highest in the early morning until about 9 a.m. If you can plan your activities for a little later, you are going to avoid some problems. People who must be outside can wear a face mask to filter out pollen and mold,” says Basich.

Sleep problems are common in people with allergic rhinitis. Research shows that sleep is dramatically impaired by allergic symptoms and that the degree of impairment is related to the severity of those symptoms. Sleeping with open windows can allow allergens to blow into your bedroom, which could cause you to wake up feeling even worse. Using the air conditioner is a better option during high allergen times.

While there is no miracle product that can cure allergies, many can be successfully treated by over-the-counter drugs. “You can take oral antihistamines to help relieve sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. Corticosteroid nasal sprays and decongestants can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness if you take them on a regular basis,” says Basich. 

For some people, allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy) can be a good option. Over time, these injections reduce the immune system’s reaction that causes symptoms. “The shots are given over a period of about a year and it takes three to six months for them to become effective. They don’t work for everyone. If three people are given the shots, two of the three may stay better for years, but the third person doesn’t get relief.  If effective, they should last two years or more,” says Basich.

Skin Care

As you expose more skin to the elements, you need protection from those rays. The number one thing to remember is sun protection, says Dr. Erik Alexander, a board-certified dermatologist.

“Skin cancer is at epidemic proportions. At least one in five people will get a skin cancer in their lifetime. The two most common types are basal cell and squamous cell cancer. They tend to be slow growing and don’t often spread. The more severe type is melanoma. Fortunately, it’s a little less common, but it is something we are seeing more of,” says Alexander. 

Various risk factors affect the possibility of a skin cancer diagnosis, but the only modifiable risk factor is sun exposure. “It’s vital over the summertime that you are protecting yourself with a good sunscreen,” says Alexander.

It isn’t enough to just apply sunscreen. You must apply enough and apply frequently. Studies indicate that most people don’t apply nearly enough daylight protection as they should – some studies recommend using about a shot glass full of sunscreen on the body.

“Sunscreen really needs to be reapplied every two hours when you’re outside, but every hour if you are doing something where you’re getting in the water,” he says.

There are three rules for sunscreen, says Alexander. “You want an SPF of 30 or higher, it should be broad spectrum to protect against UVA and UVB rays and be water resistant with an 80-minute time limit,” he says.

Don’t forget to be good to your eyes by wearing protective eyewear. When outdoors, wear sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses can help prevent cataracts and wrinkles around the eyes. Ask your eye doctor about the best type to wear.

Skin also takes abuse from exposure to poison ivy and other plants during the summer months.  High rainfall, humidity and temperatures can result in a bumper crop of poison ivy, oak and sumac. When picnicking or hiking this summer, wear long sleeves and pants. “Poison ivy can produce a red, itchy rash, but it can be treated with over-the-counter pills or creams,” says Alexander. 

Topical corticosteroids (like hydrocortisone) can reduce swelling and help skin heal faster. Relieve itchiness with cold compresses, calamine lotion and/or an oral antihistamine.


Good nutrition is important at all times of the year, but summer is a good time to take advantage of fresh summer fruits like peaches, mangoes, cherries, cantaloupe and berries. These are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients, and they can help reduce the risk of disease.

People might think they need sun exposure to get enough vitamin D in their bodies, but you can consume it in a good diet, says Alexander. “Many of our foods are fortified with vitamin D or you can take a supplement. That way you are not exposed to the harmful rays of the sun.” 

Exercising outdoors shouldn’t be a problem if the body is well-hydrated. If you experience muscle cramps from too many games of softball or other activities, you may be dehydrated with an electrolyte imbalance. It makes sense to drink sports beverages and water, or eat potassium-rich foods like bananas, pineapple and coconut water, as recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “A good diet is just common sense. Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more,” says Alexander.


This story ran in the July 2018 issue of: