Prevent Summer Fevers

Prevent Summer Fevers
Austin Cecil Walkes Family Practitioner Port Arthur, Texas

Dr. Austin Walkes is a family practitioner practicing in Port Arthur, Texas. Dr. Walkes specializes in comprehensive health care for people of all ages. In addition to diagnosing and treating illnesses, family practitioners also put focus on preventative care with routine checkups, tests and personalized coaching on how... more

Summer urges us to get out and enjoy the outdoors more fully. This results in increased exposure to sun and environmental hazards. We sun bathe and go to beaches more. We swim in fresh water lakes, waterparks, and swimming pools.

Some engage in white water rafting. Other in outdoor gardening, hiking in the woods, and camping out. Backyard activities and picnics abound. Travel to vacation destinations increases. With all these activities come increased risks to the summer fevers. Enhanced exposure to the sun can results in sunburn or even heat stroke, both can cause fever together with other symptoms, and both are preventable; if, in the former case, sunblock of not less than 30 PFS is applied to the skin every two (2) hours or as directed, and in the latter instance, appropriate amounts of water are drunk judiciously.  In addition to limiting time of sun exposure, keeping a mental or formal record of the time, taking rest breaks from sun exposure, and using cool air fans can help prevent these summer fevers.

Fresh water lakes, waterparks, white water rafting, and swimming pools have their own reservoir of fevers caused by parasites such as flukes and cryptosporidium. Flukes are more likely encountered in vacation destinations, but cryptosporidium is a common hazard of our fresh water activities which can cause illness. One can become infected by swimming in water contaminated by infected excreta of pets and animals especially cows and sheep or people who have diarrhea, particularly children two (2) years old and under and those with immune system incompetence. Usually an infected person will be asymptomatic but when symptomatic, the disease is characterized by watery diarrhea with fever and other symptoms. The diarrhea may be intermittent and lasts up to a month or more. Cryptosporidium is very resistant to chemicals.  However, filters graded one (1) micron or less can eliminate it. It is better contained and prevented by rigorously washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, before preparing food, after going to the washroom, changing diapers, handling young farm animals, gardening, and being in contact with any contaminated material. In addition, keep all persons with diarrhea out of the water. Anyone who has had diarrhea due possibly to Crypto should not be back in the water for at least two (2) weeks after the diarrhea has stopped. Do not swallow the water.  Infants’ diapers should be checked every 30-60 minutes if they are in the water. All vegetables should washed and cooked. It is possible to be contaminated by an infected person during sex, so you should wash afterwards.

Gardening can also predispose to the summer fevers by exposing you to dried infected urine of pets and other animals with bacteria which cause Leptospirosis  or Weil’s disease. This can occur in water sports and particularly by wading through streams of water after heavy rains or floods. Some people may not have any symptoms, but those who develop symptoms initially begin with a sudden high fever plus other symptoms which lasts a few days to sometimes a month, and can be in two (2) phases; after the initial symptoms you feel well for a little while, then you get very ill with liver, kidney, or brain disease. People who work with animals and animal products are more prone to contract this disease but anyone can get it.

Hiking in the woods is enjoyable but in the North, Northeast, Atlantic Coast, West, and Northwest you can encounter deer ticks Ixodes Scapularis which can infect you with Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. It is characterized by a specific rash but there is always a fever present. So again you encounter one of the summer fevers which can result in serious complications: heart disease, severe arthritis, or nervous system disease. Ticks should be carefully removed as close to the skin as possible leaving no mouth parts behind and avoid crushing. Light colored permethrin-treated clothing should be worn to prevent or easily see ticks, together with long sleeves, pants, and appropriate footwear. Park rangers should clear all leaf debris. A tick bite followed within one (1) month by a rash and fever should cause you to consult your healthcare provider. Early treatment of Lyme disease can prevent lasting debilitating sequelae.

Camping out in arid areas has its own hazards of summer fever. You may find infected mouse droppings which when ingested or inhaled can cause Hanta Fever and its complications. Fever is a primary symptom, but respiratory, kidney, liver, and nerve problems can be more serious. Mouse proof your campsite by storing away food securely, minimize dust in sleeping quarters, wash off all canned foods and drinks, set traps or poison if necessary, wash hands vigorously for 10-20 seconds with soap and water after handling any object that could be contaminated. 

With backyard cook-outs and picnics, the risks of the summer fevers are multiplied due to vector-borne diseases by mosquitoes. Western Equine Encephalitis, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, Japanese Encephalitis (in Asia), West Nile Virus, together with Dengue Fever, Zika Virus, Yellow Fever, and Chikungunya all are spread by mosquitoes, and produce fever, rash, and other symptoms. In most cases infected persons are asymptomatic but when symptomatic in many cases can be severe or lead to serious complications or even death. 

The Encephalitides, including West Nile Virus, usually can be contracted at home but Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, and Yellow Fever are diseases contracted in tropical and subtropical vacation spots, though there are sometimes acquired at home.  However, all of them can be prevented by better mosquito control and protection.

Personal protection is paramount. Everyone should drain any standing water on his or her property. You should use mosquito repellent (e.g. deet) on all exposed body surface and wear repellent-impregnated clothing. Try to avoid being outdoors during the dusk to dawn hours. Wear long sleeves and pants as much as possible. Sleep with air conditioning if available, and repellent-impregnated mosquito bed nets.

Authorities should drain stagnant pools and ponds. Dispose of old tires and large containers correctly. Monitor mosquitoes for diseases constantly. Inform health officials and the public of any positive mosquito results in any area. Use fogging and spraying of mosquitoes by land and air.

Another travel hazard spread by mosquitoes is Malaria, which is another summer fever for which there is protection if preventative medication is taken before, during, and after a visit to an endemic area, in concert with mosquito preventative measures.

Finally, summer fever can also occur from eating contaminated food or drink, generally resulting in diarrhea and stomach cramps or pain. However, fever occurs in some cases. All this can be prevented by drinking certified bottled water, avoiding ice in drinks, not eating raw vegetables, and making sure all food is well cooked.

In conclusion, summer invites us to interact more with our environment, to exercise more, to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of nature, and to even marvel at the wonders in our world, but there are health risks involved which we should take seriously and include in our overall plans to prevent them. Our local forays should include basic health maintenance measures, while vacation destinations should be researched for possible health hazards and how to prevent them. Vaccines for vaccine-preventable diseases should be obtained before probable exposure.  If these details are accomplished, we can enjoy summer without its fevers.