Are you prepared for these common summer ailments?
We usually think of winter as the time for illness to hit, but there are a surprising number of ailments which are often more common in summer.
Here is the first instalment of five of the most common summer ailments, how to spot them, how to avoid some of them, and what you can do if you’re unlucky enough to suffer from them.
If you’re slightly older, pregnant or have a pre-existing condition, or if the person affected is a child or baby, some ‘minor’ ailments can be more serious. If you’re in doubt, please contact your pharmacist or GP.
If you have heartburn (a burning sensation in your chest), feel full or sick, or bring up food or fluid after eating or drinking, you may have indigestion – often the result of a summer barbecue or hastily-devoured picnic.
You should avoid spicy food, coffee, tea, alcohol or cola, smoke, and ibuprofen or aspirin, as these can make it worse. The symptoms will usually pass within a couple of days, but your pharmacist can provide antacids to reduce the discomfort and acidity in your stomach.
Summer constipation is most likely to be the result of a change in your diet – perhaps too much-processed food, not enough fibre or fluid, or not enough exercise.
Not being able to complete a bowel movement can be painful, but constipation can be avoided and remedied quite easily by eating more fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and cereals, taking regular walks or going for a run, and drinking more (but not alcohol!). If these don’t work, your pharmacist may be able to prescribe a gentle laxative to help.
Thrush is caused by a fungus called candida and, because it likes warm, moist conditions, it can be especially problematic in summer.
You may notice itching, a white cottage-cheese-like discharge (which doesn’t usually smell) and stinging during sex or when you pass urine.
To ward off thrush, use water and a non-perfumed moisturiser, like E45, when washing, dry yourself thoroughly and wear loose cotton underwear. If you do get thrush, you should take showers rather than baths and avoid sex until it has cleared up.
You may need an oral or topical antifungal treatment, which you can get from your pharmacist.
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen and usually worse between late March and September when the pollen count is at its highest. Symptoms can be similar to a cold: itchy and runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, and often itchy or sore eyes too.
The pharmacist can provide treatments, such as antihistamine tablets or eye drops, but you can also help yourself by showering and changing your clothes after being outside and avoiding freshly cut grass and fresh flowers.
You can also try putting Vaseline around your nostrils to trap the pollen and wear wraparound sunglasses to keep the pollen away from your eyes. You can read more about treating the symptoms of hay fever in our dedicated hay fever blog.
The hot and sometimes windy summer weather can make it hard for your eyes to produce enough tears to keep them as moist as they should be. If your eyes are red, swollen and irritated, you might be suffering from dry eyes.
Dry eyes can also be caused by contact lenses and some medications. Usually, it’s not a serious problem and can be treated with eye drops and anti-inflammatory medication from the pharmacist. You can help yourself too, by keeping your eyes and eyelids clean and avoiding dusty and smoky conditions.
The good news is that through our NHS Wales-funded Common Ailments Services, we can offer guidance and, in many cases, treatment, free of charge for all of these as well as a number of other ailments, whatever time of year they strike.