In many places it feels as if summer is here already! With the warmth of summer, comes an increase in certain infections. Below is a list of 9 of them.
1 – Gastroenteritis – Summer is a time for picnics and barbecues. Unfortunately because of the heat, bacteria are able to survive and multiply more efficiently in meats and salads (potato salad, cole slaw) that are not properly prepared and stored. Ensure beef burgers are properly cooked on the grill to kill E. coli, Salmonella, etc. Ensure salads are appropriately refrigerated until ready to be consumed.
Related post: 4 reasons why you got salmonella and your spouse didn’t
2 – Swimmers’ ear – This is an infection of the outer ear canal, also called otitis external. Increased pool and beach time means prolonged duration of water in the ear. The persisting moisture in the ear causes maceration and a better environment for growth of fungi and bacteria, resulting in infection of the ear canal. Avoid this infection by tilting head to drain any water in the ear, at the end of swimming.
3 – West Nile fever – This is a mosquito borne infection endemic in the United States. During the summer, people are outdoors more, hiking, camping, or just hanging out on the patio. At the same time, mosquitos are more plentiful during the warm months, especially when there is fresh water around (after heavy rain). West Nile fever usually occurs between June and November. Most people (80%) develop asymptomatic infection. Less than 1% of infected persons can get severe central nervous system symptoms including meningitis and paralysis. Prevent mosquito bites by wearing insect repellent with 20% DEET when outdoors, and long sleeved clothing, which may be sprayed with permethrin.
4 – Other mosquito borne infections – Zika virus infection is the hot topic now, especially with the Brazil olympics approaching. Other infections spread by the same mosquito causing Zika infection, include dengue and chikungunya (and yellow fever, but not as big a threat since there is a vaccine against it). A few cases of dengue and chikungunya infection have been described in Florida. However, these infections are a big problem for persons traveling to the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as parts of Asia and Africa. Travelers to these areas should take all precautions to prevent mosquito bites (20% DEET).
5 – Lyme disease – This is a tick borne infection endemic in certain regions of the United States, particularly New England, the Mid-Atlantic states and Wisconsin. Infection occurs after a deer tick has been attached to the skin for at least 24-36 hours. Symptoms include fever, rash and headache, or general flu-like symptoms. If not diagnosed and treated early, late manifestations of the infection may include symptoms associated with inflammation of the joints, heart muscle, and brain. Fortunately antibiotic treatment is available. However, as always, prevention is better than cure. Prevent tick bites by wearing insect repellent containing at least 20% DEET. Also, cover exposed areas of skin when planning to be outdoors in tick infested environments. Lastly, after outdoor activities, inspect skin thoroughly for the presence of ticks. Look especially at the waistline as they may hide under the waistband of clothing, or at the legs of underwear.
6 – Other tick borne infections – Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis are some other examples of tick borne infections. These all cause severe febrile illnesses which have to be diagnosed and treated promptly, to avoid death. Again, prevention is better than cure. Wear a strong insect repellent, and inspect skin for ticks, after outdoor activities.
7 – Infected insect bites – Insect bites (mosquitos, ants, fleas, etc) can cause severe irritation to the skin. Scratching these can result in significant skin breaks which serve as entry points for bacteria. Abscesses and cellulitis (infection of skin and underlying structures) can occur, requiring antibiotics, and some times surgery to drain pus. Use topical anti-itch medications to decrease itching. In the case of suspected infection, seek medical attention for possible antibiotics.
8 – Tinea versicolor – This is also referred to as “liver spots.” It is a superficial infection of the skin caused by a fungus which lives harmlessly on the skin of most people. In some people this fungus causes actual infection with pale (or sometimes dark), flat, patches on the upper back, chest and arms. This infection tends to flare up during the warm summer months. Treatment is with anti-fungal creams and/or tablets.
9 – Athletes foot – Again, because of the warmth of summer, there is more sweating of the feet and increased chance for fungal infection between the toes. Read more about athletes foot in this previous post.
Most of the infections mentioned above are preventable with some extra caution. Be aware and take the necessary precautions to avoid ending up in the doctors office or a hospital this summer.