We all know that winter brings a swag of ills and chills but the summer health risks in South Australia, especially Seaford, can prove just as challenging for your health.
Our long, hot, dry summers are particularly dangerous to the very young and very old.
Excluding disease epidemics, between 1900 and 2011, more than half of all deaths resulting from natural hazards in Australia were caused by extreme heat.
There were an average of 26 deaths per year in Australia between 2000-18 that were heat-related.
Three quarters of them occurred during heatwave conditions.
So be alert in the height of summer and take all the precautions necessary to stay healthy, all the while remembering who is most vulnerable.
Here are the summer health risks that prove most dangerous.
Water is at a premium in summer and your body needs plenty of it.
We all sweat much more in the heat and this creates loss of fluids which need to be replaced.
Men should drink 10 cups (2.5 litres) per day and women eight cups (two litres) but that doesn’t account for extra fluid loss in summer.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke
Prolonged exposure to heat without enough water leads to heat-related illnesses.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke include dizziness, weakness, nausea and confusion.
Sufferers often end up in hospital on a drip to replace lost fluids.
Be particularly wary of drinking enough water when spending long amounts of time in the sun.
The elderly, the very young and anyone with a chronic health condition are most susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
Extra care should be taken to ensure their wellbeing during summer.
That includes encouraging frugal elderly parents to use their air conditioners in the height of summer rather than try to save the money they cost to run.
Sunburn is one of Australia’s biggest summer health risks.
It leads to skin cancer and potentially its deadliest form, melanoma.
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
Prolonged exposure to the sun without proper protection is asking for trouble, regardless of the skin type you are blessed with.
Wear sunscreen, hats and protective clothing and drink plenty of water when in the sun for extended periods.
Just as important as it is to safeguard your skin, it is important to remember your eyes.
Wear sunglasses with UV protection to shield your eyes from damaging high UV-radiation during summer.
Failure to do so can lead to a number of issues including eye cancers, cataracts and other types of macular degeneration.
Protective clothing also helps against the many annoying flying nasties that come out in summer including mosquitoes and ticks.
At a minimum, they may leave you with an annoying itch to scratch.
But mosquitoes in Australia can also carry infectious diseases such as:
- Ross River virus
- Japanese encephalitis
- Murray River encephalitis
- Barmah Forest virus
- West Nile/Kunjin virus
- Dengue virus
Bushfires and smoke inhalation
Bushfires are one of summer’s deadliest threats in Australia with the potential to take significant numbers of lives, property, farmland, animals and livestock.
Smoke from bushfires also poses health risks, especially for those with asthma and other pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Remain vigilant at all times, especially if you live in an area at high risk, and take seasonal precautions to minimise your chances of disaster and exposure.
The summer heat can contribute to the growth of bacteria in food much faster than at other times of the year.
This dramatically increases the risk of food contamination.
Take extreme care with your food during the summer, taking note to handle and store food properly.
If in doubt, throw it out.
Sometimes that cooling dip in the river or local creek may prove more trouble than it was worth.
Swimming in natural water bodies such as rivers and lakes carries the risk of waterborne diseases.
Take extreme caution at all times being sure not to swallow any water and follow safety guidelines when swimming.
Norovirus, Giardiasis and Campylobacteriosis are the most common waterborne diseases in Australia.
They normally result in vomiting, diarrhoea and extreme stomach cramps.
Summer leads people to water and sadly, drowning remains a cause of death astonishingly high.
In the 2022-23 financial year, 281 people drowned in Australia.
As is typical, 77% were male and 57% were above 45 years of age.
Rivers and creeks accounted for 27% of the deaths with beaches responsible for another 27%.
Know your strengths and weaknesses as a swimmer and never swim in dangerous or unpatrolled waterways.
Everyone loves the beach but it’s no fun falling foul of one of the creatures from the shallows or the deep.
Jellyfish are the most common offenders on Australian shores.
While their stings may be painful, most are generally not serious.
The exception to that rule is the box jellyfish which tends to occupy tropical waters.
Blue-ringed octopus bites are much rarer but extremely dangerous and require immediate medical intervention.
While sharks also pose an obvious summer threat.
Be vigilant and swim in populated areas attended by life guards.
Snakes love the warmer weather and nothing more than sunning themselves in the heat of the day.
Most will slither away when they hear you coming but equally, most snakes in Australia are venomous.
Take extreme caution walking through any areas where snakes may be present.
Tread heavily to send sound waves through the ground alerting them of your impending arrival.
Seek immediate medical attention if bitten.
Many people will develop intolerances to certain grasses that grow and pollens that are released during summer.
These manifest as hay fever and other allergic reactions in susceptible people.
Excessive sweating in summer, especially when playing sport, can quickly lead to an imbalance of electrolytes.
It’s crucial to replenish those electrolytes.
You can do this by consuming electrolyte rich foods such as bananas, yogurt and watermelon and drinks such as sports drinks, milk and coconut water.
A long run of hot weather can begin to impact your mental health, especially if you are living or working in conditions that are poorly protected from the heat.
Extreme heat leaves people vulnerable to stress, anxiety and heat-related irritability.
Be aware of the signs and take what steps you can to keep as cool as possible.
Raised alcohol consumption
Australia’s culture of ‘fun in the sun’ is often celebrated with excessive alcohol consumption.
This can lead to a number of health risks including ironically dehydration which is one of the precise outcomes we are trying to avoid.
Book an appointment
Summer health risks abound in Australia.
It will always be among the best times to enjoy Australia and all it has to offer.
But there are plenty of hazards that can become major health challenges if disregarded.
Stay informed about weather conditions, practice sun safety and remember to stay hydrated at all times.
With summer all but upon us, there is no better time to book an appointment to ensure you are fighting fit for the festive season.
At AHA Clinics, doctors will take the time to really listen to all of your concerns before suggesting an appropriate course of action.
If they discover anything worth investigating, they will encourage you to consider diagnostic screening and offer advice about making lifestyle adjustments for your overall health and wellbeing.
Your doctor can also talk to you about sun safety and check your skin for any potential sunspots or other skin cancers that need attention.
Book an appointment here today at either our Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or our Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic.