- Laura Fitzsimmons, Pharmacist Manager, Collector's Hill Apothecary
SUMMER STEPS TO HEALTHY LIVING
Summertime in Bermuda is all about the outdoors, from lazy days at the beach to fun filled days in or on the water. Unfortunately, the hot and humid environment that accompanies the season can lead to many common ailments. This article looks at how to handle many of the ailments so you can enjoy the summer and keep the good times going.
Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays and usually causes the skin to become red, sore, warm, tender and occasionally itchy for about a week. When burnt, the skin will normally start to flake and peel after a few days, however, will usually fully heal within seven days. While sunburn is often mild and short-lived, it's important to try to avoid being sunburnt, as it can increase your chances of developing serious health problems, such as skin cancer, in later life.
The most effective way to prevent sunburn is to reduce the amount of UV radiation reaching the skin. Below are a few recommendations from The World Health Organisation in this regard:
- Limit time in the midday sun (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.);
- Watch the UV Index;
- Seek shade;
- Wear protective clothing (including a wide-brim hat);
- Use sunscreen.
Sunscreen (or sunblock) inhibits UV light and has a sun protection factor (SPF) rating based on the sunblock's ability to suppress sunburn. The higher the SPF rating, the lower the amount of direct DNA damage.
Research has shown that the best sunscreen protection is achieved by application 15 to 30 minutes before exposure, followed by one reapplication 15 to 30 minutes after exposure begins. Further reapplication is necessary only after activities such as swimming, sweating and rubbing. Application varies based on the indications and protection factor shown on the label — from as little as 80 minutes in water to a few hours, depending on the product selected. In Bermuda, it is advisable to wear an SPF factor higher than 30 to protect the skin.
For future prevention, the primary measure is avoiding further exposure to the sun while the best treatment for most sunburn is time.
Pharmaceutical treatment options are also available and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen may decrease redness and pain. Topical steroids such as hydrocortisone cream do not help with sunburns, although the American Academy of Dermatology says they can be used on especially sore areas.
Home treatments may also help to relieve the discomfort and these include using cool and wet cloth on the damaged areas. Soothing lotions containing aloe vera and lidocaine can also relieve the skin.
Hot weather is a big factor in the development of yeast infections, as the fungus typically thrives in hot, moist areas of the body. While small amounts of candida are normally present in our bodies all the time, we usually have the right balance of bacteria to prevent them from multiplying too much. Sometimes these yeast-like fungi do grow and cause an infection. Yeast infections usually appear in warm and moist parts of the body including the vagina. Actually, the most common type of yeast infection, vulvovaginal candidiasis, occurs in the vaginal area.
Simple measures to help prevent a yeast infection include changing out of wet clothes as soon as possible, wearing cotton underwear and avoiding douches and scented feminine hygiene products. It is also advisable to change pads and tampons often and treat infections as they occur.
Should an infection occur, there are a number of treatment options available at The Phoenix Stores including short-course vaginal therapy such as Canesten and Monistat, as well as over the counter creams. Treatment is usually limited from 1-7 days or your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication such as fluconazole (Diflucan) to treat severe infections.
Photokeratitis or UV keratitis is a painful eye condition caused by exposure to UV rays which can bounce off the water, sand and concrete and burn unprotected corneas. Over time, exposure to sunlight can age your eyes lenses leading to cataracts, macular degeneration and other vision problems.
For this reason, it is important to guard your eyes with either a hat or polarised sunglasses that shield against the damaging UVA and UVB rays. Regular sunglasses will decrease brightness, however, they do not eliminate harsh glare like a polarised lens. Darker lenses can often fool you into thinking they offer more protection from UV rays however the shade of the lens does not accurately represent the lenses’ ability to block UV rays. It is, therefore, important to always check the label on your sunglasses to see what level, if any, of UV protection they offer.
The Phoenix Stores has a wide range of polarised sunglasses, as well as trained members of staff to assist in your choice.
Swimmer’s Ear Infection (External Otitis)
Swimmer's ear, or external otitis, is typically a bacterial infection of the skin in the outer ear canal caused by Streptococcus, Staphylococcus or Pseudomonas bacteria. This outer ear infection is frequently caused by excessive water exposure when water collects in the ear canal and becomes an inviting area for bacteria to grow. Cuts or abrasions in the lining of the ear canal, for example, frequent instrumentation with a cotton swab can predispose to bacterial infection of the ear canal.
Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear include itchy ears, a feeling of fullness, swelling of the ear canal and pain. The Phoenix Stores carries a broad selection of prevention and care products including earplugs and eardrops for prevention and antibiotic ear drops (Polysporin) to help if an infection does occur.
Jellyfish stings are relatively common problems for people swimming, wading or diving in seawaters. The long tentacles trailing from the jellyfish body can inject you with venom from thousands of microscopic barbed stingers.
Jellyfish stings vary greatly in severity. Most often they result in immediate pain and red, irritated marks on the skin. Itching, swelling, tingling and numbness are also common symptoms, as well as a throbbing pain that radiates up the arm or leg. Some jellyfish stings may cause more whole-body (systemic) illness such as nausea and vomiting, headache, muscle and joint problems and fever. In rare cases, jellyfish stings are life-threatening and can cause loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing or heart problems in which case it is important to seek immediate medical attention.
The majority of stings can be treated with these simple remedies:
- Remove Stingers- Remove any pieces of jellyfish tentacle in your skin by rinsing the wound with seawater. You can also try gently scraping off the stingers with the edge of an ID card or a credit card. Avoid getting sand on the wound. And, don't rinse with fresh water or rub the area with a towel, as these actions may activate more stingers
- Rinse with Vinegar / Apply a Baking Soda Paste- Rinse the affected area with vinegar for about 30 seconds. Or, apply a paste of baking soda and seawater. Each method may deactivate the stingers of some types of jellyfish.
- Take a Hot Shower / Apply Ice Packs- Hot water — as hot as you can tolerate but not above 113 F (45 C) — and ice packs may help ease the pain.
- Take a Pain Reliever & Apply Lotions- Apply calamine lotion or lidocaine to help relieve itching and discomfort. A rash or other skin reaction due to delayed hypersensitivity may be treated with oral antihistamines or corticosteroids available within our stores.
Portuguese man of war stings usually last around 15-20 minutes and can be treated in a similar way to jellyfish, however, it is important to avoid the use of vinegar or alcohol to wash the affected. Instead, thoroughly wash the affected area with seawater and afterwards soak in hot warm water to ease the pain.
Toxicodendron radicans, commonly known as poison ivy, is a poisonous Asian and NorthAmerican flowering plant that is present in Bermuda along many of our trails and woodland areas. Typical symptoms include itching, irritating, allergic and sometimes a painful rash in most people who touch it, due to urushiol: a clear liquid compound in the plant's sap.
Treatment options include immediate washing with soap and cold water/rubbing alcohol to help prevent a reaction. Hot water should not be used, as it causes one's pores to open up and admit the oils from the plant.
During a reaction, calamine lotion or diphenhydramine may help relieve symptoms and a corticosteroid can either applied to the skin or taken by mouth in extreme cases. There are also a number of products available within our stores such as poison ivy washes that can help, however, if the reaction is severe it’s important to seek medical attention.
At The Phoenix Stores, we are always ready to answer any questions or concerns regarding your health and wellness so feel free to call in and speak to any of our pharmacists.