Summer expert alert
With so many exciting outdoor activities on offer, it is more important than ever to take care of your health and avoid injury. Experts from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) are offering their advice throughout the summer to ensure this season of fun does not come with side-effects. If you are interested in interviewing any of the experts below, please contact the MUHC communications office (details below).
Fun in the sun
Damage to your skin from the sun — and tanning beds — can happen in just minutes. Short term sun exposure can result in a painful sunburn; long term exposure can result in melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Approximately 5,000 Canadians are diagnosed with melanoma each year and nearly 1000 die. Melanoma is one of a handful of cancers that can be prevented through simple changes in behaviour. Our experts recommend wearing a hat and sunglasses, applying sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and seeking shade, particularly when the sun’s rays are strongest between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Expert: Dr. Beatrice Wang – Director of the Melanoma clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital of the MUHC
How to combat oppressive heat
Hot and humid days can be exhausting, particularly for the very young and elderly. It’s important to listen to what your body is telling you, especially when the humidex hits 30 degrees; otherwise you could run the risk of heat stroke. A few simple precautions could help you avoid a trip to the emergency department. Our experts recommend avoiding strenuous activities and resting in the shade during the heat of the day, drinking plenty of water and avoiding dehydrators like coffee. But how much is water is enough? Our experts can tell you more.
Expert: Dr. Joe Nemeth – Director of Emergency Services at the Montreal General Hospital of the MUHC
Expert: Dr. Jose Morais – Director of Geriatrics at the MUHC
Breathe easy this summer
Fatigue, runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, wheezing, a tight chest and shortness of breath – these are just some of the symptoms that will be familiar to people who suffer from allergies. The summer months can be a tough time for these individuals, with the higher humidity, heat, pollen and smog levels exacerbating their condition. Our expert suggests that sufferers consult their doctor and be referred to an allergist for testing to know exactly what they are allergic to so they can avoid them. If pollen allergies are suspected, they should use air conditioning, avoid going outdoors when possible, and dry their clothes indoors rather than on an outdoor clothesline; they should also try over the counter antihistamines, and saline rinses for their nose if nasal symptoms are present. An allergist is likely to prescribe other medications, and perhaps even immunotherapy injections (also called desensitization).
Expert: Dr. Devi Banerjee – Division of Clinical Immunology and Allergy
You don’t need to hike through the wilderness to have an unpleasant encounter with poisonous wildlife – a simple walk in your back garden could be enough. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are common throughout North America. The oily urushiol, found in these and other poisonous plants, can penetrate the skin in minutes, and cause red, itchy rashes and weeping blisters. Many people are unaware that various plants and fungi commonly found in urban and rural areas can also pack a potentially fatal toxic punch, despite the best medical treatment available. Household chemicals, reed diffusers, pool cleaners, pesticides and herbicides can be fatal if consumed. Our expert has some tips and tricks for minimizing your risk and can tell you how to recognize an emergency and what to do in such circumstances.
Expert: Dr. Sophie Gosselin – Emergency Physician and Clinical Toxicologist at the MUHC
Safety first for outdoor fun
Summer is the perfect time for swimming, cycling and rollerblading, but serious traumas and injuries can happen if care is not taken. Children should always use protective equipment/clothing where possible, and parents should increase their vigilance to prevent injuries. On average, 300 children visit the Montreal Children’s Hospital’s each year with concussion, yet research clearly shows that wearing a helmet while cycling and rollerblading can significantly reduce the risk and severity of a head injury. Drowning is a leading cause of death in Canada for children aged 1 to 4 years and incredibly 50% of deaths occur in Quebec. Our expert can tell you more.
Expert: Debbie Friedman – Director of the Trauma Program at the Montreal Children’s Hospital
Some things to remember for your exotic summer vacation
When you take a tropical vacation, there are a number of things you should never forget…and we’re not talking about your iPod…we are talking, of course, about your vaccinations. Check with your doctor before you travel to make sure you have all the shots you need to avoid some pretty miserable health consequences and perhaps an early trip home. Depending on your destination, it may also be a good idea to pack anti-malarial medications, insect repellent, mosquito netting, diarrhea medication, and water purification tablets/liquids/filters. When can a fever be a sign something more serious? Our experts can tell you more.
Expert: Dr. Michael Libman – Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the MUHC