How to Prevent and Treat Common Summer Ailments From Bug Bites to Poison Ivy

Winters in New York can be tough. Whether snow strikes or not, the cold, short, and gray days hardly beg for a romp out of doors. As the temps heat up and you begin to spend more time outside, we want you to make the most of this wonderful season by avoiding potential summertime pitfalls.

Here at Cosmopolitan Medical Practice, Dr. Robin McKinney and our team partner with our East Harlem patients to keep them healthy year round. To that end, here are some tips to help keep you and your family ailment free this summer.

The sun: An equal opportunity offender

The very thing that’s inviting you outdoors — the sun — can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, no matter your skin color. The melanin in your skin, which is what’s responsible for the color in your pigment, is designed to absorb the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, preventing them from doing any internal damage.

While people with darker skin tones absorb these harmful rays better than lighter-skinned people, the absorbed radiation can still do harm. In fact, skin cancers among African Americans are potentially more dangerous since they’re harder to spot in their earlier stages.

To protect yourself, we urge you to adopt good sun protection practices. A nifty way to remember sun protection is through, “Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap” which means:

These rules of thumb are especially important during peak sun hours, typically between 10am and 4pm.


Another common summertime problem is dehydration. When you’re active outdoors, you’re losing moisture at a much higher rate than in winter. We urge you to drink plenty of water throughout the summer to avoid fatigue and dehydration.

A good practice is 8-of-8 — eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.

Bugs be gone

Another summer hazard are bug bites and stings. Whether you’re in the park or simply walking down your street, mosquitoes, bees, wasps, hornets, and ticks can be found most everywhere. While you can’t always protect yourself, a few measures can go a long way toward warding off dangerous bug bites and stings.

For example, if you’re heading to the park, apply some insect repellent with 20-30% DEET. And covering up with clothing, including a hat, is a wise idea. Insects can invade from the air, drop from trees, or be found in the grass, so head-to-toe protection is a wise idea.

If you do get stung by an insect, apply some ice to reduce the swelling. If your swelling doesn’t go away or you develop hives, please come see us as soon as possible. If you’ve been bitten by a tick and you’re unsure how to extract it, give us a call so we can help.

Dangerous plants

As the grays give over to greens in the summer, not all of these emerging plants are harmless. Poison ivy is an extremely sturdy plant that can crop up in vacant lots, as well as all over New York City parks.

Poison ivy is a vine-like plant with three pointy leaves, and it can leave you with an itchy, miserable rash, which you can treat with over-the-counter medications made especially for poison ivy. If your rash spreads or becomes infected, please see us as soon as possible.

Another plant that can do harm is stinging nettle. This plant is usually found near water and grows fairly tall. If you walk through some plants and find yourself in instant, stinging pain, it’s likely stinging nettle. The good news is that the pain and itching last only minutes.

We’re here to help

Our goal isn’t to scare you from heading out to enjoy summer — we just want you to exercise some precaution. With a few prevention techniques, you can stay healthy all summer long, allowing you to get the most out of these warm, sunny months.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (212) 651-6263 or use the online scheduling tool to set up an appointment.

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