The silly season… or… the dog days of summer

The silly season… or… the dog days of summer

The silly season is generally considered to be the period in the late summer months, when the mass media often focus on trivial or frivolous matters, for lack of major news stories.

But it is also a period of time, during a holiday season, in which the behaviour of an individual or a group tends to become uncharacteristically frivolous, mirthful, or eccentric.

In the Algarve the silly season is marked, without doubt, by frivolous, outlandish, or illogical activity or behaviour and it seems surely to be here now.

We are at the height of our own, Algarvian native, extraordinary, unmatchable silly season and this is the time when people think a holiday is a very special “hole” in normality. When entering it, they are convinced that they go into a state of grace where nothing wrong will ever happen, whatever they do!

In many cases, reality hits shortly after, strongly, bringing the dreamers back to normal life and the hazards of living. It also brings them to the Doctor!

Holidays are many times not perfect as there are many wonderful things that can turn into a nightmare, especially if people do not think as they would if they would not be on holidays.

In North America the period is often referred to as the slow news season, or with the phrase the dog days of summer.

The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the rising of the star system Sirius which Greek and Romans connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs and bad luck.

They are now taken to be the hottest, most uncomfortable part of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

Sirius is known colloquially as the “Dog Star”, reflecting its prominence in its constellation, Canis Major (the Greater Dog).

The Romans continued to blame Sirius for the heat of the season and attendant lethargy and diseases. In the early 20th century, historians still noted the “discouraging heat” and “oppression” of the dog days of the Roman summer.

The rising of Sirius during this period has been calculated as July 19. In Anglo-Saxon England, the dog days ran from various dates in mid-July to early or mid-September. Many modern sources move this still earlier, from July 3 to August 11, ending rather than beginning with or centering on the reappearance of Sirius to the night sky.

Even after astrology and its influence on health and agriculture waned in importance, the name “dog days” continues to be applied to the hottest days of the summer, with effects on nature, society and health.

The sun and the heat
Beautiful brilliant sunshine that warms the body and soul and gives the skin a healthy glow!

We all know them quite well, the sun worshipers…

The fact is that too many people still associate a tan with health and fitness. What about ultra violet light dangers, sunburn and prickly heat?

Do you realise that tanning is actually your skin’s attempt to protect itself from the sun’s damaging rays?

A long time ago, there was this doctor from Scotland that came for holidays for the first time in his life. There was the most extraordinary bright Algarve sunshine and he spent his first day of his holiday at the beach, sitting under the umbrella, reading his book. Nevertheless… the legs below the knees were out of the shade, under the sun.

He spent the rest of his holidays coming every day to the surgery for dressings.

Sunstroke also happens, especially if people forget to drink water. Because of not drinking enough and losing more liquids than usual by sweating, urinary infections become more frequent.

The water
Delicious pools…

A very nice seventy something year old lady that had not been in a pool for 20 years, when arriving at the luxurious villa where she was going to enjoy the holiday of her life, could not resist the pool and jumped in, feet first, but not into the deeper end. Result: Both ankles plastered.

Amazing sea…
During the long hot summer, nothing is more refreshing than taking a plunge into the sea at your favourite beach. Never mind that the waves look a little larger than normal or no lifeguards may be on duty, the urge is almost irresistible.

Waves, currents… many hazards that people do not pay attention to… and the doctor will be needed.

Unfortunately, the swimmer is often convinced he is the best swimmer in the world and the sea cannot beat him. Not true, it can, and it does, more often than we would like.

Humans were not made to survive in the water, they were made to live in the open air.

This brings us to another water related problem, common to pools and sea, which is the number one holiday issue in a beach side environment, the “ear infection” calamity.

The animals and the plants
Medusas, spider fish, contact allergy with some plants, palm trees’ spikes.

Close encounters that inevitably end up at the doctor’s office.

The heat affects not only people, but also animals, as high temperature causes aggressive behaviour in many animals like snakes and scorpions, all sorts of insects from mosquitoes to spiders.

The sports
Consider someone who, in the routine of day-to-day life, never has the chance to fit in any physical exercise but decides to pick up the lost time and go on a “tennis holiday”.

The body is not ready for intense exercise, so it ends up… at the doctor, with falls, broken bones, muscle and tendon (like Aquiles’ tendon) ruptures, sprains, cuts.

The food… and the drinks
Nutrition in summer should also be changed, as people change clothing for the summer season. To feel more comfortable in summer they should merely drink more water and avoid alcohol, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less fatty meat.

But the opposite happens…

High temperatures also affect food, increasing poisoning cases during the hot season.

It can be worse with food that you eat at home, as restaurants actually abide by very strict rules.

During the hottest part of the summer, the heat, gradually rising, affects people’s health in many ways.

Really? It is holiday time, nothing wrong can happen.

Wrong, it does happen.

Think! Use your brain, try to not to leave it at home when packing.

For the Algarve residents I have a warning: This strange behaviour is highly contagious.

Reality has always two faces, like holidays…

Like Charles Dickens starting lines of “Tale of Two Cities”: It was the season of light it was the season of darkness…

Best health wishes,
Maria Alice

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Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve/ Hospital S. Gonçalo de Lagos