TODAY   |  July 06, 2010

Safeguard your family against summer ailments

Beach trips, camping and just plain fun in the sun can lead to a variety of annoying and dangerous symptoms. Dr.  Keri Peterson offers tips for treating everything from heat exhaustion to swimmer’s ear and seasickness.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

TAMRON HALL reporting: The excessive heat and humidity along the Atlantic Coast creates a dangerous situation. If you're planning on heading outdoors for some fun in the sun, from heat stroke to seasickness and even swimmer's ear, there are seven common summer ailments we should all know about. And Women's Health contributor Dr. Keri Peterson is here to tell us how we can protect ourselves. Dr. Peterson , it's good to see you. Good morning.

Dr. KERI PETERSON (Contributor, Women's Health Magazine): Good morning, Tamron .

HALL: So let's get to it because this is what everyone's talking about, the heat and how it affects our bodies. Heat exhaustion .

Dr. PETERSON: Yes.

HALL: At what temperature are we at risk?

Dr. PETERSON: Certainly a day like today. Anything in the 80s or above, when it's humid out, is going to put you at risk. And what heat exhaustion is is when your body temperature rises to the point where you're not able to cool off on your own. So stay really well hydrated on a day like today .

HALL: So how do you know what amount of water you need for hydration? I walked yesterday, I think it was maybe 30 minutes. By the end of my walk my head was spinning from the heat.

Dr. PETERSON: Oh, yeah. You were already dehydrated. That's actually one -- the third stage of dehydration.

HALL: Yeah.

Dr. PETERSON: People often think that thirst is the first sign of dehydration, but it's not. Once you're thirsty, you're already past the point where you've lost fluids. Your first sign is actually fatigue.

HALL: Hm.

Dr. PETERSON: So stay up with your fluid losses, drink a lot of water. If you become thirsty, that's a -- that's your second stage and a sign to you that you're already dehydrated, and drink a lot more.

HALL: Sounds like you should just head out the door with water in hand.

Dr. PETERSON: Certainly, on a day like today .

HALL: All right, heat stroke . A lot of people will go out, mow the lawn, again, not realizing the impact it can have on your body.

Dr. PETERSON: That's right . Heat stroke is the second stage after heat exhaustion . It's when your body temperature rises to a level above 104 degrees. This is a life-threatening situation. What will happen is your body gets so hot that your organs actually start to become damaged. So you start to get brain swelling, so you get confusion. Your skin gets hot and dry. And the elderly and kids are especially at risk. Don't have them outdoors on a day when the temperature's in the 90s, and certainly not playing sports.

HALL: So how should you be treated if in fact you think that you've suffered heat stroke ?

Dr. PETERSON: If you think that -- actually, usually it's someone else who notices that you're a little off.

HALL: OK.

Dr. PETERSON: But get them cooled as quickly as possible.

HALL: Right.

Dr. PETERSON: Call 911. Put ice packs in their arm pits. Even spray them off with a hose.

HALL: OK.

Dr. PETERSON: Anything to cool them down quickly.

HALL: Heat rash . Not as severe, obviously...

Dr. PETERSON: Heat rash .

HALL: ...but still a problem.

Dr. PETERSON: It is for a lot of people.

HALL: Yeah.

Dr. PETERSON: A lot of people are prone to it. And it's very annoying. It's a prickly, red little bumps that form on the chest because...

HALL: Yeah. So how do you treat it?

Dr. PETERSON: Avoid hot -- the heat, obviously.

HALL: Yeah.

Dr. PETERSON: And try to wear breathable fabrics.

HALL: OK.

Dr. PETERSON: And avoid heavy creams.

HALL: Swimmer's ear . What is it?

Dr. PETERSON: Swimmer's ear is an infection of the ear canal , and it happens when the ear gets wet and the bacteria start to grow. Very easily treated with ear drops . And go to your doctor if you feel itching or pain.

HALL: Yeah. You have a lot of kids who are water bugs this time of the year, they just want to get in the water.

Dr. PETERSON: Sure.

HALL: How do you prevent it in the first place ?

Dr. PETERSON: Once they come out of the pool...

HALL: Uh-huh .

Dr. PETERSON: ...or out of the ocean, dry their ear off gently with a towel...

HALL: Yeah.

Dr. PETERSON: ...and have them shake their head sideways.

HALL: Shake it over. OK, that's pretty good. Poison ivy . Again, something that you run into, next thing you know you're scratching and boom.

Dr. PETERSON: Yes. So poison ivy , the -- what -- to know that you're avoiding it, leaves of three, let it be . Poison ivy ...

HALL: Leaves of three, let it be .

Dr. PETERSON: Let it be .

HALL: OK, that's in my head.

Dr. PETERSON: If you see three leaves around a stem, that could be poison ivy .

HALL: All right.

Dr. PETERSON: But it does hide.

HALL: Yeah.

Dr. PETERSON: And it gives you a characteristic rash of very curved, red lines.

HALL: How do you treat it?

Dr. PETERSON: And you treat it -- first, if you know you've been exposed...

HALL: Yeah.

Dr. PETERSON: ...in the first 10 minutes wash yourself off right away.

HALL: OK.

Dr. PETERSON: Otherwise, you just have to let it run its course.

HALL: Leaves of three, let it be .

Dr. PETERSON: Yeah.

HALL: All right, that's stuck in our heads. And lastly, insect bites and stings .

Dr. PETERSON: Yes.

HALL: Oh, we got one more after that, but insect bites and stings . What do you have?

Dr. PETERSON: Those can cause a whole host of reactions, from redness to itching to swelling. And people who are allergic to bee stings or to insect bites ...

HALL: Yeah.

Dr. PETERSON: ...can get tremendous swelling and redness, or even anaphylaxis, which is when the airway closes up.

HALL: Right. Something more serious, obviously.

Dr. PETERSON: Yes.

HALL: Some of the bug creams that you can prevent -- OK.

Dr. PETERSON: Yeah, be prepared. Have an antihistamine ready.

HALL: OK.

Dr. PETERSON: Take it during your trip if you know you're allergic.

HALL: And the last one is seasickness.

Dr. PETERSON: Seasickness. The dreaded, dreaded motion sickness.

HALL: Yeah. What do you do?

Dr. PETERSON: For that the key is prevention. So first, if you know you get it, take a Dramamine beforehand.

HALL: Yeah.

Dr. PETERSON: Otherwise, if you're already on the boat, focus on the horizon, stay in the fresh air...

HALL: Yeah.

Dr. PETERSON: ...and try to avoid alcohol or reading books.

HALL: All right, a good list of things to look out for because we do want to have fun.