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Combating common summertime ailments

On July 29, 2012

(ARA) - You can't avoid it: Summer activities mean bites, bumps, burns and bruises. Make sure you're ready by stocking up on these medicine-cabinet basics:
Over-the-counter pain relievers
Summer is the time when people are breaking out golf clubs, gardening tools and baseball gloves. All that activity increases the likelihood of muscle aches, strains and sprains. For basic relief, experts recommend over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as naproxen sodium, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Although most mild injuries can be treated successfully at home, you should see a doctor if you experience numbness or an inability to move without significant pain.
Sunscreen and lotions
Sunburn can, of course, be prevented by protecting your skin with sunscreen or clothing whenever you're outdoors. But if you forget, treatments such as a lotion that contains aloe vera can provide symptom relief. OTC pain relievers don't heal or prevent damage to skin, but they can reduce the pain, swelling and discomfort associated with sunburn. These are especially beneficial when taken during the first 24 hours of sun exposure.
Hydrocortisone, topical creams and antihistamines
Insect bites are as much a part of summer as sunshine. If you're stung by an insect and the stinger is stuck in your skin, try to remove it carefully to prevent the release of more venom. For any bite or sting, wash the area with soap and water and apply a cold pack or cloth filled with ice to reduce pain and swelling. A pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may also help with any associated pain. A topical cream containing hydrocortisone can be used to provide itch relief. You can also take an OTC antihistamine containing diphenhydramine if you have a mild allergic reaction.
Most people have mild reactions to insect bites and experience little more than an itching or stinging sensation and mild swelling that will disappear within a day or so. Signs and symptoms of a severe reaction can include nausea, facial swelling, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, and deterioration of blood pressure and circulation. If any of these occur, you should call 911 immediately.
Heartburn medicines
Warm weather means baseball season and backyard barbecues - which can also mean repeated cases of heartburn after too many chili dogs and beverages.
Heartburn is most often described as a burning sensation behind the breast bone that moves up toward the neck or throat. This occurs when stomach acid irritates the normal lining of the esophagus. People may also experience acid regurgitation with heartburn, which is the sensation of stomach fluid coming up through the chest into the mouth. Less common symptoms that may also be associated with gastro esophageal reflux include unexplained chest pain, wheezing, sore throat and cough, among others.
Planning ahead and knowing which OTC treatments may help is essential to keeping your summer gatherings pleasant. Bring along a few over-the-counter treatments, like antacids or H2 blockers, when you head out for summer festivities. People who have heartburn at least twice a week might want to talk to their doctor about taking a proton pump inhibitor such as omeprazole or lansoprazole.
Diarrhea medications
If your summer vacation plans include traveling to new and far-flung places, it's a good idea to be prepared for certain stomach ailments. Travelers' diarrhea, a digestive tract disorder that causes loose stools and abdominal cramps, is caused by consuming contaminated food or water. Though this illness is irritating and may disrupt a day or two of vacation, it usually isn't serious and can be treated on the spot without a doctor's visit.
To reduce your risk, be careful about what you eat and drink while traveling. If you do develop diarrhea, it may go away without treatment. If not, bismuth subsalicylate can decrease the frequency of your bathroom trips and shorten the duration of your illness.
Tip: When buying over the counter (OTC) medications, you can often save money by purchasing store-brands. Store-brand OTCs have the same efficacy as national brands and meet or exceed Food and Drug Administration quality standards, but cost an average of 36 percent less, according to Perrigo, a Michigan-based pharmaceutical company that manufactures and distributes most of the over-the-counter medications found under store-brand labels at leading retailers, grocers, club stores and pharmacies. 

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