What Are Sea Lice?

First thing’s first: Sea lice aren’t lice at all. They’re tiny baby jellyfish, so small you can’t even see them – about the size of a grain of pepper. And just like their grownup counterparts, they sting. Here’s how to avoid sea lice at the beach.

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Tips for Staying Healthy and Safe this Summer

 

MedlinePlus and NIH offer lots of information online to help. We’ve summarized some helpful highlights to get you started.

Sun Exposure and Your Skin

Too much time in the sun is linked to everything from sunburns to heat illness, long-term skin damage, and skin cancer.

You can’t see the sun’s UV (or ultraviolet) rays but they contain a form of radiation that passes through your skin and can damage your skin cells.

If possible, stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest. If you do need to go out in the sun, take steps to be safe. Use and reapply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and wear UV-protective sunglasses and clothing.

Also, keep an eye out for skin moles or spots that change color, which could be a sign of cancer. Contact your health care provider immediately if you think you may have a cancerous mole.

SOURCE: MedlinePlus: Sun Exposure

Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac

Ouch! Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are types of plants with sap or oil that many of us are sensitive to. When our skin touches the sap, it can create itchy rashes and blisters. The rash often doesn’t often start until 12 to 72 hours after contact.

To avoid rashes, try to recognize and stay away from poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Be cautious when you hike or spend time in heavily wooded areas.

If you come in contact with one of these plants, wash your skin with soap right away. If you do get a rash, your pharmacist may recommend over-the-counter medicines to help with itching. Luckily, rashes are not contagious.

If your rash is severe or you notice swelling, contact a health care provider immediately, as that can be a sign of a serious reaction.

SOURCES: MedlinePlus: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Red Sumac; American Academy of Dermatology: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Opens new window

Dehydration

Our bodies are 90 percent water, so it’s no surprise we need a lot of it to keep going each day. In fact, the average person needs three quarts of water daily to function well.

But when we’re exercising, sweating, or spending time in the sun, we may need more liquid.

Without enough hydration and electrolytes, we can become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration are feeling thirsty, having dark-colored urine, feeling faint or dizzy, and having to urinate less.

If you think you may be dehydrated, try to drink small amounts water over a period of time to prevent throwing up.

Electrolytes—minerals in our bodies that help balance the amount of water—are key to avoiding dehydration. Sports drinks (without caffeine) with electrolytes may help if you have an imbalance.

SOURCES: MedlinePlus: Dehydration; MedlinePlus: Electrolytes

Insect Bites and Stings

At one point or another, you’ve probably experienced a not-so-fun bug bite or sting.

Mosquito and flea bites usually itch. Bee, wasp, and hornet stings and fire ant bites usually hurt.

In general, bug bites and stings are uncomfortable but not life-threatening. However, if you know you are allergic to any insects, like bees or wasps, keep an emergency epinephrine kit handy.

Ticks are usually harmless, but a bite from an infected blacklegged deer tick can lead to Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can cause serious health problems if left untreated. Some early symptoms include fever and chills, headache, joint and muscle pain, and a bull’s eye rash where the tick bit you. After spending time outdoors where there may be ticks, make sure to check yourself, family members, and your pets. If you think you may have Lyme disease, seek medical help immediately.

For mild itching or discomfort from other bug bites or stings, over-the-counter antihistamines, anti-itch creams, and ibuprofen and acetaminophen may help.

To avoid bug bites and stings, use insect repellent according to label instructions, be careful when performing activities outside, wear protective clothing (like long pants or sleeves), and avoid heavily scented soaps and perfumes.

SOURCES: MedlinePlus: Insect Bites and Stings; Food and Drug Administration: Beware of Bug Bites and Stings; Opens new window National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Lyme Disease Opens new window

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Here comes the sun, and kid sun safety

(HealthDay)—Summer sun brings childhood fun, but experts warn it also brings skin cancer dangers, even for kids.

“Don’t assume children cannot get skin cancer because of their age,” said Dr. Alberto Pappo, director of the solid tumor division at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. “Unlike other cancers, the conventional melanoma that we see mostly in adolescents behaves the same as it does in adults.”

His advice: “Children are not immune from extreme sun damage, and parents should start sun protection early and make it a habit for life.”

So, this and every summer, parents should take steps to shield kids from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Those steps include:

* Avoid exposure. Infants and children younger than 6 months old should avoid sun exposure entirely, Pappo advised. If these babies are outside or on the beach this summer, they should be covered up with hats and appropriate clothing. It’s also a good idea to avoid being outside when UV rays are at their peak, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

* Use sunscreen. It’s important to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to children’s exposed skin. Choose one with at least SPF15 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Pappo cautioned that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every couple of hours and after swimming—even if the label says it is “water-resistant.”

However, sunscreen should not be used on infants younger than 6 months old because their exposure to the chemicals in these products would be too high, he noted.

* Keep kids away from tanning beds. Melanoma rates are rising among teenagers, partly due to their use of indoor tanning beds. Use of tanning beds by people younger than 30 boosts their risk for this deadly form of cancer by 75 percent, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

* Get children screened. Early detection of melanoma is key to increasing patients’ odds of survival. Children with suspicious moles or skin lesions should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible, Pappo advised. Removing melanoma in its early stages also increases the chances of avoiding more invasive surgical procedures later on, he added.

More information: There are more sun-safety tips at the Skin Cancer Foundation.