Simple Steps Everyone Can Take To Avoid Five Common Summer Illnesses

It’s officially summer!  The kids are out of school, you’ve made plans to take a vacation, you’re looking forward to spending time outdoors and you’ve sent out invites for pool parties and BBQs.  The last thing you want is for your summer plans to be interrupted by a health problem. Here are five common illnesses we see in the summer months, and simple steps you can take to avoid them.  

  1. Food Poisoning

           Did you know that rates of food poisoning double in the summer months?  This is partly due to the fact that bacteria like salmonella and e.coli replicate faster in warm, humid environments, and partly due to mayonnaise-containing dishes (think potato salad, macaroni salad or deviled eggs) that get left out in the heat for too long.  To prevent food poisoning from ruining your summer plans, make sure that your food is cooked properly. Put plenty of ice in the cooler if you’re transporting food. And don’t leave dairy-containing dishes out of the fridge for more than two hours (or one hour if the temperature outdoors is 90 degrees or higher.)

  1. Asthma Attacks

          Air pollution, blossoming plants and trees, and cut grass all lead to an increase of allergens in the air, which can trigger asthma attacks.  There are several steps you can take to avoid this common summer health problem. First, make sure you carry your rescue inhaler with you at all times.  Second, make sure you have plenty of refills on your asthma medication so you’re not at risk of running out. Third, create an Asthma Care Plan with your primary care provider so you know when to add in additional preventive medications (like a steroid inhaler or an oral allergy medication) if your asthma isn’t controlled by a rescue inhaler alone. And fourth, consider staying indoors if pollen and air pollution levels are high.

  1. Heat Exhaustion

           Many summer activities entail spending time outdoors enjoying the sunshine, which can be great for your mood and your Vitamin D levels!  But the heat can also be dangerous, especially for young children and elderly adults. To avoid heat-related illnesses, make sure to drink plenty of water, spend time in the shade, and avoid being outdoors when the sun is at its peak (usually between 12 - 3 p.m.)  

  1. Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac

           The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that 85% of people are allergic to urushiol, the oil that’s found in poison ivy, oak and sumac plants. There are several steps you can take to avoid developing an uncomfortably, unsightly, intensely itchy rash from these plants.  First, wear long sleeves and pants when you’re hiking. Second, stay on marked trails to avoid brushing against these allergenic plants. And lastly, shower and change clothes as soon as you get home to rinse off any oils that may have come in contact with your skin.

  1. Swimmer’s Ear

           “Swimmer’s Ear” is a bacterial infection of the skin in the ear canal that happens when water gets into the canal and becomes infected as it sits there.  There are several steps you can take to avoid this painful condition. First, you can wear ear plugs when you’re swimming underwater. Next, use a towel to dry your ears as soon as you get out of the water.  And third, instill a few drops of vinegar (which contains acetic acid) in your ears after swimming to eradicate any bacteria that may be lingering in the ear canal.


At Golden Gate Urgent Care, we want you to have the happiest, healthiest summer possible!  We have six Bay Area clinics, and we’re open seven days a week to offer you same-day illness and injury care. Make an appointment online or simply walk in if you need us!  We’ll get you fixed up and back to your summer fun in no time.

Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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