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Whether you are enjoying the great outdoors this summer with a camping trip, a carefree jump in the lake or maybe just a walk in the park, you could find yourself experiencing some potentially dangerous symptoms.
NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar stopped by TODAY Tuesday to discuss the warning signs of several summer ailments and strategies for coping with them.
People who are the most at risk of suffering from dehydration are those participating in vigorous exercise without rehydrating, the very old, in addition to the very young, and people with chronic illnesses.
Some key symptoms are feeling thirsty and having dark urine.
“If you’re feeling thirsty, it’s not too late, but that’s a sign of dehydration already,” Azar said. As for your pee, the lighter the better. “If your urine is very light, light yellow, it suggests you’re well hydrated.”
Other signs of dehydration are decreased urine output, dry skin, headache and even constipation, dizziness, and lightheadedness. The treatment for dehydration is taking in fluids.
In severe cases, Azar said, go to the emergency room for treatment.
The classic signs of asthma are a cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing. You can suffer from the lung ailment even in the summertime.
“It might be counterintuitive to think of asthma being worse in the summer,” Azar said. “We usually associate it with viral triggers like infections in the fall and winter and we certainly see an uptick then.
“But things that can cause asthma exacerbation in the summer would be the humidity or mold,” she added.
Azar urged people to have an asthma action plan: know your triggers, have emergency treatment close by and be in close contact with your doctor. “Make sure that you’re always well prepared,” she said.
Just having asthma symptoms, though, doesn’t mean you have asthma. “If you have a lot of allergies you may have these symptoms,” Azar said.
The bull's-eye rash is the classic sign of this disease, which is caused by a bacteria carried by infected deer ticks. The rash has a red center where the tick bite occurred, which is encircled with an area of whiteness and then an outer “zone of redness,” Azar said.
While a doctor can easily diagnose the disease in people who have the rash, Azar noted that up to one-quarter of people do not develop the telltale bull's-eye. That makes it important to pay attention to symptoms you may be experiencing.
“If you don’t have the rash but you have early symptoms of Lyme, that is fatigue, a flu-like illness, malaise, swollen lymph nodes, and you live in an area, the Northeast and the Midwest, where there’s a high risk, you need to get yourself checked out,” Azar said.
Inspect your kids for ticks from head to toe after they play outside, Azar said, but remember, the ticks that transmit the disease are at the nymph stage and can be tiny. “You have to look really, really carefully,” Azar said.
The disease is treatable with antibiotics.
If you have water stuck in your ear after a summer swim, you should be on the lookout for signs of swimmer's ear, an infection of the outer ear canal.
“Water is a moist environment,” Azar said. “It breeds infection.”
This infection can strike people of all ages, but it’s more common in children.
The way to help determine if a child has swimmer’s ear it to pull on the earlobe, which would be very painful in cases of this kind of infection, Azar said.
“That distinguishes it from the classic middle ear infection that the school-age kids get,” Azar said. “You can pull their ear all you want _ it’s not going to hurt them.”
The typical treatment from a doctor would be ear drops with a steroid antibiotic, Azar said. To help prevent the infection, wear earplugs while swimming or dry the ears with a towel afterward or lay on a towel with the ears pointing down to let the water out.
It can make you itchy just thinking about it: Poison ivy can leave us with redness, swelling, and blisters. But remember that the blisters are not what’s contagious. It’s the oil on the plant.
“The way you get poison ivy is really from the oil on the leaf,” Azar said. “Wash with lukewarm water and soap. Wash the clothes. Anything the oil can get on.”
The treatment is calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream.
With that, enjoy a safe, healthy summer of fun.
TODAY.com contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.