Healthy Lifestyles

4 Summer Health Mysteries Solved

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

While summer days are seemingly flying by, there is still plenty of time for picnics, barbeques, pool days and more.

You are probably aware of how hotter temperatures and long days in the sun can cause dehydration or a bad sunburn. But that’s just the start of common phenomena that can happen to you in the summer.

Here, three Henry Ford Health System physicians discuss other occurrences that you may have experienced during the summer season:

  1. Brain freeze. Don’t worry – that headache you get when eating ice cream or drinking a Slurpee doesn’t actually freeze your brain. And it doesn’t mean you have to cut these frozen treats out of your diet, either. According to neurologist Angelos Katramados, M.D., scientists aren’t completely sure why we get headaches from brain freezes. “We believe it is actually the nerve endings that go to the coverings of the brain that are able to sense the change in temperature, and cause the sensation of pain,” he says. So, although you need to eat your frozen treat before it melts, make sure to take your time. If you do get a brain freeze, simply slow down and give your mouth time to warm up.
  2. Phytophotodermatitis. A big word, but a phenomenon that dermatologist Jungho Kwon, M.D., sees all too often. This condition occurs when chemical compounds found in the juice of some plants – such as citrus, celery, carrots, parsley and figs – gets on the skin and reacts with the sun. The result is dark spots and even inflammation or painful blisters. Sometimes these plants are used in essential oils and other natural products, and bergamot oranges, which can cause this skin discoloration, are commonly found in perfumes and sunscreens. Anyone can be exposed to this condition, Kwon says. But those who have more pigmented skin will a greater reaction. While a topical steroid can be prescribed in serious cases, these dark spots will go away in time. So the next time you make fresh lemonade, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after. And when using essential oils, sunscreen, and other natural products, check the ingredients to make sure they don’t contain these plant extracts.
  3. Wrinkly fingers after swimming. It’s happened to you before. You have gotten out of the pool or even the bath to find that your fingertips are all shriveled. For a long time, it was thought that this was solely your skin reacting to absorbing too much water. “Doctors today believe this is also an autonomic response – something that our bodies automatically do,” Kwon says. Usually it only takes about five minutes of constant water exposure for you to start to wrinkle up. Wrinkly fingers are no cause for concern. In fact, some scientists believe that we wrinkle because of evolution – to help grip onto things better when wet.
  4. Red eyes after swimming. If you’ve ever opened your eyes under water without goggles on, then you know that it can cause burning or irritation. That’s why ophthalmologist Tina Turner, M.D., advises against it. Not only can it lead to infection, but water disrupts the tear film on the surface of the eye. “The tear film is a complex substance with the perfect mixture of oil from your eyelids, mucous from the surface of the eyes and tears,” Turner says. “It is easily disrupted by fluids of different pH, tonicity and composition.” To avoid eye irritation next time you swim, wear goggles, keep hydrated and use eye drops when needed.

While many summertime phenomena are harmless, things like dehydration, heat stroke and more can be detrimental to your health. If you aren’t feeling well, or if your condition isn’t going away or is worsening, talk with your doctor.

Make an appointment by visiting henryford.com or calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Angelos Katramados is a neurologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Dr. Jungho Kwon is a dermatologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center — Troy and Henry Ford Medical Center — Farmington Road in West Bloomfield.

Dr. Tina Turner is an ophthalmologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Ophthalmology — Grosse Pointe.