Your Health A-Z

The most common summer illnesses and how to avoid them

When people think of seasonal illnesses, winter colds and spring allergies usually come to mind. However, summer can be a hotbed for illnesses as well, especially when it comes to your kids. Know what they are so you can recognise the symptoms and act early.

For many South Africans, the onset of summer means more outdoor time. And while the increased temperatures and sunshine have a generally positive effect on most, the spectre of summer illnesses is a clear and present factor.

“The illnesses that I see during the summer months are predominantly gastrointestinal-related,” says Dr Karlien Bezuidenhout, a general practitioner based at Mediclinic Hoogland. “Higher temperatures provide an open invitation for all sorts of ‘bad’ bacteria to spread. This obviously applies to the food we eat and the water we drink. Therefore, it is important to eat food that is properly prepared and stored, especially during the summer braai-season.”

Why is there an increased risk of food poisoning in summer?

“Another factor to bear in mind with warmer weather is the drier air,” explains Bezuidenhout. “And this can affect the upper-respiratory tract. I also do tend to see some patients with flu-like symptoms during the summer but these are more viral in nature and not as severe as winter flu. Although, untreated conditions can lead to more serious illness.”

Bezuidenhout goes on to add that while more serious conditions such as typhoid and whooping cough are possible during the summer period, increased public awareness and effective vaccinations have seen a substantial drop in these illnesses.

Is there of contracting waterborne illnesses from activities such as swimming?

“Yes, there is a risk of contracting bacterial infections from water activities. But these are few and far between. Limit swimming to safe and hygienic environments. And ensure your ears are dry when towelling off.”

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.