Featuring Dr. Jason Tibbels, VP of Teladoc Health Services
For years people assumed sore throats, runny noses and fevers came from cold weather, but summer, too, can bring sickness. It has less to do with the weather and more to do with how you’re spending your summer.
“Swimming pools and crowded vacation spots are perfect breeding grounds for germs that can ruin our summer’s last hurrah,” says Dr. Jason Tibbels, VP of Teladoc Health Services.
So, what common ailments are plaguing both children and adults when they’d rather be having fun in the sun? Read on for what’s keeping physicians busy this summer—and how you can stay out of their waiting rooms.
One of the most common diagnoses for adults at the general practitioner’s office is sinus infection, or sinusitis. This major health problem affects 31 million people in the U.S.1 The sinuses become swollen and irritated in the nasal area, causing mucus to build up. Congestion can be frustrating for sufferers who can’t breathe through their noses, have pain in their throats and feel pressure in their faces. The entire head region often hurts.
Sometimes, these infections are a complication of allergies, which are usually very intense in the summer. According to the American Sinus Institute, grasses, pollen, mildew and mold spores are at their worst during warmer times of year when people are outside enjoying activities. More outdoor exposure means inflammation and irritation of the sinuses, which can lead to buildup of harmful irritants.
Dr. Tibbels recommends keeping the nasal passages moist with nasal spray or irrigation systems like the neti pot, which also help rid the nose of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Also try to minimize exposure to other irritants like chlorine and smoke from campfires or cigarettes.
Antihistamines or decongestants can bring relief, but if your symptoms are getting worse, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or steroid spray.
Sore throat, or pharyngitis, is a common summertime ailment, especially for young children and teens. Whether it’s a result of a bacterial or viral infection, the condition can cause great pain and bring with it cough, headache, swollen glands or fever.
You or your child may have strep throat, or the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, if you notice bright red tonsils with white spots. In this case, the sore throat is usually sudden and can bring loss of appetite and even abdominal pain. It’s important to seek treatment right away for strep. It’s highly contagious and can lead to more serious illnesses. The good news? It can be treated quickly with antibiotics.
If you also have a cough, nasal congestion and runny nose, you could have a viral infection. Getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids and eating healthy foods will help you heal quicker. Dr. Tibbels recommends over-the-counter pain medication and gargling with salt water for relief.
If you’re not feeling better in a week to 10 days, seek medical care; a severe and persistent sore throat could be a sign of a more serious issue.
Upper respiratory infections
If your head is full of pressure, you have a runny nose with sneezing and have a sore throat, you could be suffering from an upper respiratory infection. These infections account for 20% of all medical visits, and over 30% of lost days from work.2 These lead to more healthcare visits and missed days from school and work than any other illness each year.3
You can get sick by inhaling air droplets that contain pathogens, or by touching a contaminated surface or person and then using your hand to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. For treatment, drink plenty of fluids, take pain relievers and use a humidifier to help ease breathing discomfort. See a physician if symptoms do not improve; you could have a bacterial infection, allergies or another health problem.
Hand, foot and mouth
Hand, foot and mouth disease is one of the most common summertime illnesses for children age 5 and under. Caused by the coxsackievirus or enterovirus, it often leads to sores around the mouth and rashes on the feet, hands and buttocks. It can be minor, causing only slight fever and cold symptoms, or can be more severe, resulting in high fevers and very painful sores inside the mouth.
Parents should monitor high fevers and be on the lookout for abnormal behavior. Try to hydrate your child and keep him or her contained at home once you notice the outbreak.
Gastroenteritis, which includes norovirus infections, can also occur in the summertime, bringing with it vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Lyme disease, spread by deer ticks often in the Northeastern U.S., is most common in spring and early summer, but risk lingers into fall. And with our hottest days, heatstroke, our body’s response to overheating, requires immediate medical attention.
If your summer lovin’ is cut short by any of these infections or illnesses, U.S. board-certified Teladoc physicians are available 24/7 by phone and online to get you back to healthy and happy.
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