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Local doctors set record straight about scary summer scenarios

From shark attacks to flesh eating bacteria to nasty germs in pools, local doctors with American Family Care (AFC) are setting the record straight about scary scenarios that could land you in either urgent care or an emergency room this summer.

“People are frightened and we’re answering a lot of questions about summer scares and sicknesses, so we need to separate the facts from the fiction,” says Dr. Benjamin Barlow, chief medical officer of American Family Care, a national healthcare network with local medical clinics. “We’re hearing things like ‘Will a shark attack me and my family? ‘, ‘Is my neighborhood pool safe or will it make me sick?’ People need to understand the truth about the health risks that sometimes are valid but often are greatly exaggerated.”

AFC’S Summer Health Quiz: Fact vs Fiction

Swimming Pool Sickness – recent reports of a parasite found in swimming pools is making people extremely sick.

1. The smell of strong chlorine in a swimming pool is a good thing. Fact or Fiction? FICTION!

When that smell is in the air, there is less chlorine in the pool that can kill germs like the crypto fecal parasite, which the CDC recently warned is on the rise.

The crypto fecal parasite – is also known as cryptosporidium which can cause a healthy adult to experience watery diarrhea for as long as three weeks. The parasite can survive in properly chlorinated water for up to 7 days.

Swallowing pool water increases your risk of ingesting the parasite.

Watery diarrhea associated with the parasite can last up to three weeks and can lead to life threatening malnutrition. Anyone experiencing diarrhea should avoid swimming until at least two weeks after their diarrhea goes away.

A recent survey released by the Water Quality & Health Council found one in four Americans said they would jump into a pool within an hour after having diarrhea.

The same survey also says 40% of Americans admit they’ve urinated in the pool as an adult.

What makes the smell? We use chlorine in pools to kill germs, but when you jump in covered with sweat, dirt and make up, that makes the chlorine less effective and causes the chlorine to make what’s called chloramines and these compounds create the strong odor.

Shark Fright – recent shark attacks along the East Coast have swimmers scared.

2. You have a better chance of dying in a car crash than being attacked and killed by a shark. Fact or Fiction? FACT!

Wildlife experts estimate your chances of being attacked and killed by a shark in a lifetime are one in 3.75 million versus a one in 84 chance of dying in a car crash.

According to Tracking Sharks, 6 people around the world (1 in the United States) died from shark bites in 2018. The National Safety Council reports 40 thousand people in the U.S. died in a car crash last year.

Shark experts at the Florida Museum of Natural History offer a few “don’ts” when it comes to sharks:

• Don’t swim at dusk.
• Don’t’ swim alone, go out in water in a group.
• Don’t swim at night, dawn or dusk.
• Don’t get in the water if you are bleeding.

As far as car crashes, AFC providers say always wear your seatbelt.

Flesh Eating Bacteria – a rare fleshing eating bacteria has killed people who went in saltwater with an open wound.

3. Sea water can help heal wounds. Fact or Fiction? FICTION!

People with open wounds who swim in certain coastal waters can be exposed to a potentially deadly infection called necrotizing fasciitis also known as flesh eating bacteria.

• The infection enters the body through a break in the skin, usually when an open wound is exposed to saltwater.
• The bacteria can aggressively attack muscles and organs causing tissues to rapidly deconstruct.
• If not treated quickly by antibiotics the infection can be fatal.
• You can also contract infection by eating either raw or undercooked seafood.

Sand Sickness - people have reported getting sick after spending summer days on beach.

4. Sand can make you sick. Fact or Fiction? FACT

Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests spending hours in the sand raises the risk of diarrhea and other gastrointestinal illnesses, since it is packed with bacteria.

Wash your hands with lots of soap to remove e. coli and other germs.

Lightning Strikes – Summer is primetime for lightning strikes because there is more warm moisture in the air, especially in the afternoon and evening.

You must be touching something, like a pole or standing in water, to get struck by lightning. Fact or Fiction? FICTION

According to the CDC, lightning strikes cause injuries multiple ways:

• Direct strike: When you are hit directly by lightning, which is often fatal. In Colorado, officials say lightning struck and killed a man July 14th, as he hiked on Bear Creek, his wife was also injured.
• Side flash: If you get hit by lightning after it splashes or bounces off an object, like a tree.
• Ground current: When lightning strikes the ground close to where you are standing or sitting and the ground current passes from the strike point through the ground into your body.
• Contact injury: If you are touching a pole or on a boat when lightning strikes the object. This viral video shows lightning hitting the mast of sailboat. No one was on the boat.

• Two-thirds of lightning casualties occur between noon and 6 p.m.

• About 10% of people struck by lightning die, most commonly from a heart attack.

• Heat Can Kill – With temps getting hotter each year, everyone, not just the elderly are at risk.

5. Heat stroke can kill you. Fact or Fiction? FACT

Heat stroke is the most severe of heat related illnesses. It occurs when your body temperature hits 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Your brain, kidneys and muscles can be damaged and lead to serious complications.

• If your skin is red and hot to touch, you could be having a heat stroke.

• A heat stroke can also trigger a headache, as well as dizziness or nausea.

• You can also feel confused.

When you are having a heat stroke, you will also have a fast, strong pulse. If you do not get in front of a medical expert, you can die.

Published August 8, 2019

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