Summer Safety: How to Prevent and Treat Common Illnesses

With temperatures rising, many Oakland County residents are enjoying our area’s natural beauty from lounging on beaches to hiking on trails. But before heading out, it’s important to make sure you are protected against accidents that commonly occur in warm weather so you and your loved ones can continue to savor summer in Michigan.

Heat-Related Illnesses Prevention

Heat-Related Illnesses Treatment

Heat illness can be deadly.

  • Go to a cooler area and remove any unnecessary clothing such as shoes, socks and additional outer layers.
  • Slowly drink cool water or clear juice.
  • If possible, sit by a fan or air circulator.
  • Place cold, wet cloths or ice packs on your head, neck, armpits and groin. If necessary, you may need to take a cold bath.

Sunburn Prevention

Always wear sunscreen.

  • Always apply sunscreen during any outdoor activities, even if it’s cloudy.
  • Use sunscreens that have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and blocks UVA and UVB.
  • Apply sunscreen on all exposed skin (including ears, scalp, lips, neck, hands and feet) at least 20 minutes before going in the sun.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and each time you get out of the water or sweat heavily – remember UV rays reflect on water and sand.

Wear protective clothing.

  • Wear light-colored, breathable long-sleeved shirts or rash guards and pants.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers your face, head, ears and neck.

Additional tips.

  • Stay in the shade, especially from (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) when the sun is high in the sky.

Sunburn Treatment

Sunburns can turn serious.

  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil) to relieve any discomfort. Ensure that whatever pain reliever you choose will not interact with your prescription medications.
  • Drink water.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths or take a cold bath or shower.
  • Use afterburn cream or aloe gel for additional comfort.
  • Cover any blisters with bandages or gauze to prevent infections. If the blister breaks, apply antiseptic (Neosporin) to the wound.

Tick Prevention

Some ticks can carry very serious, sometimes deadly, diseases including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.

Avoid tick hot spots.

  • If you have a pet check with your veterinarian to see what preventative flea and tick medications are available. Always check your pet and yourself for ticks after being outdoors.
  • Avoid grassy, brushy and wooded areas. If you are hiking, do not wander from the trail and walk in the center of the path.

Use repellants.

  • After applying sunscreen, apply an EPA-registered repellent on exposed skin. There are many repellants available – find yours here.
  • Treat clothes (especially pants, socks and shoes) with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact or buy clothes that are pre-treated. Do not use permethrin directly on your skin.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying repellents.

Additional tips.

  • Tuck pant cuffs into socks so ticks cannot hide in the fabric folds.
  • Shower as soon as possible after coming indoors. Look for or feel for ticks, especially around your scalp, ears, underarms, belly button, waist and back, pelvic area, knees, and in between legs.
  • Wash your clothes in hot water and dry them on high heat for 60 minutes to ensure any ticks are dead.
  • Monitor for emerging diseases related to ticks in Michigan.

Tick Treatment

  • If a tick is attached to you, use small-tipped tweezers to grab the tick. Then pull straight up and away from you. Don’t rip, twist or jerk the tick because that can cause parts of the tick to stay in your skin. If that does happen, use the tweezers to remove any parts if you can. If not, leave the parts alone and let your skin heal.
  • Put the tick in a resealable baggie and take pictures. Go here to verify what type of tick it is because some carry Lyme disease.
  • Clean the bite area with antiseptic.

Mosquito Bite Prevention

Mosquitoes can bite day and night, so be sure to protect yourself.

Use repellants.

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellent with either DEET, picaridin, IR3535, lemon eucalyptus oil (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undercanone. Do not use OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Do not spray repellent on your skin under clothing.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellant second.

Additional tips.

  • Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants. You can also treat your clothing with 0.5% permethrin, but do not use permethrin directly on your skin.
  • Stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near water. Every week, empty and scrub out items that can hold water, such as kiddie pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, dog houses or tires. You may want to purchase mosquito larvicides like mosquito dunks that can be tossed into ponds, unused swimming pools, bird baths, rain gutters and animal troughs.
  • Monitor West Nile Virus cases in Oakland County and related diseases in Michigan.

Mosquito Bite Treatment

Some mosquitoes can carry diseases like the West Nile Virus and Zika Virus, so be sure to monitor any bites.

  • Wash the area where the mosquito bit with soap and water.
  • Use an ice pack for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and itching.
  • Use an over-the-counter anti-itch or antihistamine cream to help relieve itching. You can also create a paste from baking soda and water, apply it to the bite and wash it off after 10 minutes.
  • See a healthcare provider if your bites appear infected, you have a fever, you have swollen lymph nodes and/or you have increased skin swelling and redness.

Bee, Wasp and Hornet Sting Prevention

When outside for extended periods, take these precautions.

  • Wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothing.
  • Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, and deodorants.
  • Don’t wear cologne or perfume.
  • Avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries.
  • Wear clean clothing and bathe daily. (Sweat may attract bees.)
  • Wear clothing to cover as much of the body as possible.
  • Avoid flowering plants when possible.
  • Properly dispose of food waste as wasps thrive in places where humans discard food.
  • Remain calm and still if a single stinging insect is flying around. (Swatting at an insect may cause it to sting.)

Bee, Wasp and Hornet Sting Treatment

  • If you are attacked by several bees, wasps or hornets at once, run away. Bees release a chemical when they sting, which may attract other bees. Seek shelter indoors, even a shady area is better than an open area to get away from the insects.
  • If you’ve been stung, wash the site with soap and water.
  • Remove the stinger using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a clean fingernail over the area. Wasps, yellow jackets and hornets do not leave a stinger but can sting multiple times. Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers as that can release more venom.
  • Apply ice to reduce swelling and calamine lotion to reduce itching.
  • Take antihistamine (Benadryl).
  • If you experience troubled breathing, are stung more than 10 times, stung inside your nose or throat, seek immediate medical attention.

Giant Hogweed, Cow Parsnip and Wild Parsnip Prevention

Identify but do not touch giant hogweed, cow parsnip and wild parsnip.

  • Giant hogweed grows from 8 to 15 feet. It has small white flowers that cluster at the top and large jagged lobed leaves. The stems are thick with purple blotches and coarse white hairs.
  • Cow parsnip grows from 4 to 5 feet. It also has small white flowers that cluster at the top and serrated rounded lobed leaves. The stems and leaves are covered in fine soft hairs.
  • Wild parsnip grows up to 5 feet. It has small yellow flower clusters and saw-toothed, lobed leaves. The stems are yellowish-green and have grooves.
  • Be careful when walking in meadows or alongside water banks and ditches.

Giant Hogweed, Cow Parsnip and Wild Parsnip Treatment

  • If the plant touches your skin, immediately wash the area with soap and water.
  • Stay inside and away from direct sunlight for 48 hours. If the rash worsens or gets into your eyes, see a doctor immediately.

Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac Prevention

Identify but do not touch poison ivy or poison sumac.

  • Poison ivy will climb trees, rocks and walls. If there is nothing for it to climb up, it will spread on the ground. Poison ivy can also grow into a small shrub. It is known for its three notched leaves that have a large hump or “thumb” at the base of each leaf. The leaves are green during summer, reddish yellow during fall and dark red during spring. Poison ivy grows small white berries during spring and has fine hairs that stay yearlong.
  • Poison sumac is a tall shrub or small tree that grows along bodies of water, in swampy areas and in other lowlands. It has tiny branches that have seven to 13 leaflets. The leaflets are oval shaped with rippled edges that taper to sharp points. The leaves are green in summer and bright red and orange in fall. Poison sumac also grows white berries.

How to safely be near poison ivy and poison sumac.

  • The sap can be transferred to you by breaking any part of the plant or brushing against the plant. The sap from these plants causes severe skin irritation including blisters, burns and scarring when it mixes with sweat and sunlight. It can also cause blindness if it gets into your eyes.
  • Do not cut these as you will cause the sap to splatter. Contact Oakland County CISMA at
    • If you can’t avoid being around them, wear eye protection, gloves, long sleeves, pants and boots.
    • Take precautions when removing clothing and wash them immediately.

Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac Treatment

  • Skin contact with the oil from these plants causes a rash. If you come in contact with the plant, immediately wash the area thoroughly with soap and water to remove the oil from your skin, dry with a disposable paper towel.
  • If you develop a rash, apply cold compresses, and over-the-counter products such as cortisone creams, antihistamines (Benadryl) or Ivy-dry to lessen the irritation.
  • Once you have the rash, the oil has been absorbed and you probably can’t spread it to others or elsewhere on yourself. If your skin blisters, the liquid inside of the blisters is mostly water and will not spread the rash even if they break.
  • If your symptoms are severe or prolonged, seek medical attention.

Stay connected with the Oakland County Health Division on Facebook and Twitter, and visit their website for additional health information and services.

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One thought on “Summer Safety: How to Prevent and Treat Common Illnesses

  1. I would like to thank you for educating residents on safe ways to enjoy our beautiful state. The information provided will certainly make our summer holidays so much more enjoyable!!!!

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