By: Dr. Thomas Kaiser
In the past few weeks, the summer appears to have finally reached Portugal, so here are my tips for you how to enjoy it in good health.
I hope you will not need the emergency number but, if there should be a medical or other emergency where time is absolutely crucial, please remember 112 is the telephone number for fire services, police and medical emergencies.
Currents in the Atlantic
Please do not forget that the Atlantic is not like the Mediterranean Sea. Particular on the Algarvean west coast, you could be confronted with very dangerous currents. It is impossible to identify them from the beach. Be guided by the locals and only swim where coastguards can keep an eye on you.
Portugal can be proud of the improvements it has made to road safety in the last five years but the roads are still a dangerous place, especially with more cars on the roads during the holiday season. The secret lies in “passive” driving, always expecting the other driver’s mistakes and anticipating how one can compensate.
As a doctor, I see a lot of injuries and problems, in the summer, being caused by too much alcohol. A lot of sun, not enough water and too much alcohol are a particularly unhealthy combination. Be wise and keep your head cool. You do not need to get drunk to have a good time. Parents should be good role models for their children.
Occasionally, the holiday is a period when a couple finally has the time to fight all the fights it has delayed during the work period. It is also a time when we tend to think more about the meaning of life and the state of our relationships with others. Hence, it is only normal that real emotional crises erupt in the summer. Sometimes, relationships can benefit enormously from the help of a psychologist or family doctor.
I do not need to remind you that sun protection is essential. Make sure you have creams with UVA and UVB protection. Whilst UVB radiation causes sunburn, UVA is the radiation that is responsible for the skin aging process (wrinkles, keratosis, spots). UVA goes through glass, UVB does not. Do not forget your eyes. They can also get very unpleasant sunburn.
In hot weather, bacteria grow quicker. Keep all food in a cool dry place – in the fridge is best. Do not consume food that has been accidentally defrosted before. If in doubt, it is better to open a new pack.
For diarrhoea, your doctor has effective treatment and you should drink plenty of liquids. Stay away from soft ice creams and dishes made with raw eggs!
Mosquitoes, scorpions and snakes
The latter are rare and mostly not really dangerous, but mosquitoes are very common and a great nuisance. Here, prevention is definitely better than the cure.
Should you still get bitten, watch out for extensive redness, tracking of red lines and swollen lymph glands. A small minority of mosquito bites get infected. For these, you need a doctor’s help.
Even more dangerous than mosquitoes are banana boats! Cynics have claimed that banana boats were the invention of us doctors to create more patients. We see a lot of injuries from banana boat passengers, mostly facial cuts and musculoskeletal injuries. They are definitely not suitable for smaller children, non robust swimmers or the elderly. Be prepared for sudden accelerations and stops, or try a paddle boat.
They can be a major spoil sport on holiday. They are a logical consequence of humans living like fish, with their heads underwater for hours. Our ear canals are not made for that.
Here are three foolproof ways to avoid an earache in the Algarve:
Have your ears checked and de-waxed, if necessary, before the swimming season.
Use a few drops of olive oil every night as ear moisturiser.
Do not ignore early signs of infection and pain. Timely treatment is more effective.
Barefoot on the beach and in the dunes
Many injuries happen by stepping on sharp objects on the beach. This is particularly true for children when they play in the dunes, while you enjoy delicious fish at the beach bar. Make sure your children wear sandals.
Wet swimming trunk syndrome
This happens a lot to young boys, who run around on the beach all day with their wet swimming costumes. The friction, caused by the wet textile against the skin, leads to inflammation and infection. It is best prevented by putting on dry light clothes after swimming and using lots of moisturising creams like Vaseline or Nivea.
Tonsillitis in teenagers
July and August is tonsillitis time for teenagers. This severe throat infection is caused mostly by Streptococcus bacteria and is transmitted through close social contact and, in particular, kissing summer crushes!
The experienced doctor makes the diagnosis without even looking into the mouth of the patient. The typical change of voice is the giveaway. The experienced doctor also does a blood test to rule out glandular fever, which looks the same but takes much longer to clear and does not respond to antibiotics.
Do not get me wrong, I am not against kissing in summer!
Animals in the sun
Do not forget man’s best friend, the dog, in these hot months to come. Every year, too many unfortunate animals are left in cars in the sun and die. Even a few minutes can be too long!
That is enough said about the dangers and illnesses that lurk in the summer. Life is too short not to enjoy it!
Wishing you a hot and beautiful summer,
Yours, Dr Thomas Kaiser