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Six Summer Stings

By: Ivan Olegario, MDSix Summer Stings

Forewarned is forearmed—and so in the summer of 2017, the Department of Health (DOH) issued a warning to the public about the “6S”, or the six diseases that are prevalent during the country’s summer months. These are: (1) Sore eyes; (2) Sipon at ubo (cough and colds); (3) Skin diseases; (4) Sakmal ng aso (dog bite); (5) Sunburn; and (6) Stomach ailments.

Let’s take a look at the 6S again and find out how to stay healthy when the scorching heat of the season strikes in.


  • What is it? Infection of the eyes, usually caused by one of several highly contagious viruses. This causes eye redness, eye itching and, sometimes, eye pain. These viruses—like colds—can be transmitted from one person to another through close contact or hand-to-eye contact with objects that are contaminated with these viruses.
  • What’s with summer? It’s still unclear why sore eyes are common during summer. It may have something to do with the warm weather making our tears evaporate much faster. As tears help wash away infectious microbes, they make our eyes more vulnerable when they dry up. Also, when we sweat on the forehead and face, it makes us touch our face more often, thus upping the opportunities to contaminate our eyes.
  • How to avoid it?
  • Avoid touching your eyes or face.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleanser, especially before touching your eyes or face.
  • How to treat it? Sore eyes are usually caused by viruses and should go away without treatment within seven to 14 days. However, visit your doctor if you experience eye pain, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, or other diseases. Here are other self-care tips:
    • Do not wear contact lenses if you have an eye infection
    • A cool, clean, moist towel on the face may help relieve eye discomfort.
    • Pain killers such as paracetamol may temporarily relieve eye pain. Anti-allergy medicines may slightly relieve eye itching.



  • What is it? Like sore eyes, these are mostly caused by viruses that infect the nose and throat, giving rise to bothersome coughs and colds.
  • What’s with summer? Touching the face and close contact with those who have cough and colds can spread the infection. Similarly, outdoor activities that require close contact with other people (e.g., swimming in a crowded swimming pool) increases the risk of viruses being passed on as well.
  • How to avoid it?
  • The key to preventing cough and colds is frequent hand washing and good personal hygiene.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to prevent spreading your germs to others.
  • Keep your immune system strong by eating a wide variety of foods and several servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Aside from these, there’s not much you can do to avoid getting these catchy bugs.
  • How to treat it?
    • In addition to the good-old water therapy (drink lots of fluids), sipping on Mom’s classic chicken soup helps sooth the symptoms of a bad cough and cold.
    • Vitamin C with zinc supplements may help shorten your illness if given within 48 hours of the first sign of an itchy nose or throat.
    • Over-the-counter cough and cold medications can temporarily relieve symptoms but they rarely help shorten your illness. Patience is, therefore, a virtue.



  • What is it? When we talk about skin diseases, we are not just talking about one, but several skin conditions that are common during summer. These include prickly heat, certain types of hives, eczemas, and skin infections. While the underlying causes of these conditions are different, they all present as skin rashes, redness, and itching.
  • What’s with summer? The process of sweating can induce certain hives in some people, while the sweat (moisture) can macerate the skin if left for a long time. When maceration is combined with poor hygiene, they can trigger skin infections and eczema flare-ups.
  • How to avoid it?
    • Keep cool to avoid sweating. Consider taking quick cool showers but avoid staying too long under a warm shower as this may contribute to maceration.
    • Zinc-containing talcum powder can whisk moisture away from the skin surface.
    • Wipe sweat off gently by doing a dabbing (not wiping or rubbing) motion.
    • Know your triggers (is it certain soaps/detergents/perfumes? Animal dander? Fashion jewelry?) and avoid them like the plague.
  • How to treat it?
    • Calamine lotion and oatmeal soaks can help relieve itching.
    • Guava-leaf soaks and washes, as well as wound antiseptics and wound dressing may help minor infections and open wounds.
    • If your symptoms do not resolve or improve within two to three days, see your friendly doctor.



  • What is it? See that cute (or not-so-cute) pooch across the street? It may bite you.
  • What’s with summer? This is the time when people, kids especially, spend more time outdoors playing with dogs. Also, dogs may be more irritable in hot weather.
  • How to avoid it?
    • Keep your mutt cool. Make sure dogs have plenty of drinks and a cool, breezy, shady place to rest.
    • Avoid teasing your dog, especially when it is eating.
    • If your dog seems ill (less playful, eating or drinking less than usual, has changes in bowel movement or consistency), consult a vet.
  • How to treat it?
    • When bitten by a dog, wash the wound with soap and water, then dress it with a sterile bandage.
    • As much as possible, monitor the health condition of the dog for 14 days to watch out for symptoms of rabies, including irritability, severe sudden illness, or death.
    • For all cases of dog bites, consult a doctor. While not all dog bites require vaccination, your doctor can help you decide if you need to get rabies vaccination immediately.



  • What is it? The sun’s radiation can burn the skin all throughout the year, even when the sun in cloudy. The ultraviolet radiation reflected by the sea can also burn you even if you stay under the shade.
  • What’s with summer? We just love basking in the sun during summer, don’t we?
  • How to avoid it?
    • Stay under the shade as much as possible.
    • Apply a sun screen with SPF 15 at least every two hours when under the sun. Use a waterproof sunscreen when dipping in water.
    • Keep your skin moisturized with your favorite lotion or facial moisturizer every day.
  • How to treat it? Sunburn is treated like any other skin burn. Here’s how to treat minor sunburn, according to the American Academy of Dermatology:
    • Place a cool, damp towel on the skin for 10 or 15 minutes, a couple of times every day.
    • Take frequent cool showers and pat dry. Immediately apply a gentle moisturizer on your still-damp skin. Moisturizers with aloe vera or soy seem to be especially effective. Avoid lotions with petrolatum, benzocaine, or lidocaine.
    • Pain killers (e.g., paracetamol) may temporarily relieve pain.
    • Drink lots of water. Even minor sun burns can dehydrate you and your skin.
    • Do not pop blisters, as this can infect the burn. Do not apply toothpaste.



  • What is it? Summer ushers in several conditions that affect the digestive system, including indigestion, heartburn and diarrhea.
  • What’s with summer? Summer is a time for get-togethers, outings, and vacations. During this time, some of us tend to indulge in spicy food which may not bode well for our stomach. It’s also the time of year when picnic and party food can spoil more easily in the warm weather, so we need to watch what we eat. It’s also possible that the drinking water in your destination may be contaminated. Dehydration from the heat can also cause an upset stomach and bowel changes.
  • How to avoid it?
    • Keep spicy foods in moderation.
    • Do not overindulge. Chew your food like civilized human beings.
    • Do not let food stand too long to prevent spoilage.
    • Cook food well and avoid raw delicacies.
    • Boil water or drink sterilized bottle water.
  • How to treat it?
    • Treatment varies depending on your symptoms. Abdominal pain may be relieved by over-the-counter antispasmodics (e.g., Bisacodyl). Heartburn may be relieved by antacids. Diarrhea should be treated with plenty of water and oral rehydration salts.
    • For persistent or moderate to severe symptoms, or those accompanied by fever, vomiting, poor appetite, dehydration, sleepiness or drowsiness, visit the emergency room ASAP for further evaluation.
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