Gail Belsky

You may not think of summer as a major season for sickness, but there are a number of illnesses that occur only in the warm months -- and most often in kids. These viruses and bacteria live and breed where kids like to hang out: in lakes, pools and wooded areas.

The main culprits are enteroviruses (which are transmitted through the digestive tract) and viruses carried by deer ticks, says Dr. Jeremias Murillo, an expert in pediatric infectious disease at the Children's Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel.

There are no vaccines for these viruses, so parents need to be vigilant and prudent, advises Murillo. Steer clear of dirty-looking lakes and overcrowded pools, which can be contaminated with infected feces and sewage. Avoid wooded areas where tick-carrying animals live. And if you're going hiking, wear white clothing with long sleeves and pants, and check frequently for ticks.

Here's how to spot and treat the six most common summer ailments:

Summer Sickness No. 1: Enteroviruses

Enteroviruses include Coxsackie viruses; ECHO virus; and hand, foot and mouth disease.

Source: Water contaminated by human feces, such as lakes and under-chlorinated pools.

Signs: Upper-respiratory infection; diarrhea and vomiting; pinkeye; skin rashes; and blisters in the mouth and on the hands and feet. Can lead to viral meningitis. Symptoms develop three to seven days after infection.

Treatment: None. Clears up after a few days.

Summer Sickness No. 2: Lyme Disease

Source: Bacteria spread by infected ticks.

Symptoms: A single bull's-eye rash, body-wide itching, fever, chills, muscle pain, stiff neck and headache. Symptoms come and go. If not treated, Lyme disease can spread to the brain, heart, and joints.

Treatment: Antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 3: Babesiosis

Source: Parasites spread by infected deer ticks.

Symptoms: Shaking, chills, very high fever, loss of appetite, and a type of anemia that can lead to jaundice and dark urine. Often misdiagnosed as malaria.

Treatment: Antimalarial medications and antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 4: Ehrlichiosis

Source: Bacteria spread by infected ticks.

Symptoms: Fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, diarrhea, flat red rash, and tiny areas of bleeding on the skin. Can also cause anemia and blunt the immune system, leading to other infections. Symptoms develop seven to nine days after the bite.

Treatment: Antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 5: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Source: Bacteria spread by wood.

Symptoms: Prominent, generalized rash that starts in hands and feet and spreads to the rest of the body. Also, chills, fever, severe headache, muscle pain, mental confusion. Can affect organs if not treated immediately. Symptoms develop two to 14 days after the bite.

Treatment: Antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 6: E-coli

Source: Bacteria found in sewage-contaminated lakes and other water

Symptoms: Sudden, severe and bloody diarrhea. Also, fever, gas, loss of appetite, and stomach cramping. Symptoms develop 24 to 72 hours after infection.

Treatment: None. Sickness disappears in a few days.

Most cases of these illnesses are fairly mild, but some can lead to serious complications -- and very rarely, death. Being aware of the causes and signs can help you protect your kids -- and ensure your summer fun.


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Health - 6 Summer Illnesses You Need to Know About