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How to avoid poisonous plants, high bacteria levels and hormonal mosquitos this summer

Summer joys are easily derailed by rashes and infections. The latest science can help you avoid poisonous plants, hungry mosquitos and contaminated beaches.
Portrait of a beautiful young Black woman wearing a brown top smiling with her eyes closed as she lays on the grass, with a brown hat next to her.

Ah, summer! A time for camping, swimming, stargazing and road-tripping. A season of making plans that can easily derail if we have a run-in with the wrong flora or fauna.

To help protect you from nature's wrath, here's how to avoid the overgrowth of plants, mosquitos + bacteria that can send you inside, sick. Then, learn how to travel safely despite rising virus levels. Plus, how last week's Supreme Court decision could shake up healthcare access for years to come.

But first, get some brain + body relief with…

  • The Checkup: healthy indulgence
  • Grow Up! waves + plants + mosquitoes
  • Healthcare: dengue + Covid + court rulings

The Checkup: 

(Don’t) catch a wave!

Two white curvy women in bathing suits smile and laugh as they sit on towels on the sandy beach with rays of sunlight coming down through the brush behind them.

Sandy shores on both coasts closed last week because of environmental factors.

Some shuttered due to high Enterococci + Escherichia coli levels. While found in human intestines, E. coli in ocean water can signify fecal contamination, suggesting other disease-causing viruses + bacteria might float nearby.

Mats of cyanobacteria (a stinky, decaying, gelatinous scum) closed two Massachusetts beaches. And excessive rain carried “red tides” of algal blooms into others.

So, if a sign warns the water’s closed for swimming? You really don’t wanna swim in it.

Read more at Time.

Poisonous plants 101

A middle aged white woman with long blond-gray hair arranges flowers to sell in a wooden barn and washes her hands in a sink.

Spend time with Mother Nature this summer, and you may run into a pretty-but-poisonous plant that soon after makes your skin crawl. Learn how to identify poison ivy, oak and sumac at CT Insider. To see how their rashes look on light + dark skin, head to JAMA.

Otherwise, here’s a primer:

  • Poison ivy, oak and sumac contain sap oil (urushiol) in their stems, leaves + roots. 
  • Once on skin or clothing, the oil easily travels to other areas of the body—and other humans. You can also get it by petting an animal that has brushed against a plant + has the oil on their fur. 
  • Urushiol causes an itchy, red rash (allergic contact dermatitis) on the skin of 75% of the population who are allergic to it. A smaller portion is severely allergic.  
  • The rash is usually red and bumpy, arranged in streaks. If the rash is really nasty, it can cause fluid-filled blisters. 
  • Rashes typically appear 24-48 hours after contact, peak 1-14 days later, and take up to 3 weeks to heal.
  • The plants are difficult to remove because of the concentration + mobility of the oil. Never burn them—oil released in the air can cause internal damage + severe allergic reactions. If you must remove them from your property, learn how to do so safely at AP.
  • They’re a good food source for many wild animals. If you can avoid them, let them be. 

Dr. B can’t help you heal from a contact dermatitis rash. But we offer $15 consultations for rosacea, eczema, dandruff, hair loss, eyelash growth + more. Explore our online dermatology.

Mosquito cravings?

Father and son fishing while on a family backcountry canoe trip near Killarney, Ontario, Canada. Both are wearing mosquito nets over their faces.

Female mosquitoes feed to support egg production. But new research reveals a hormone directly at play.

Produced in the insect gut, neuropeptide F (NPF) levels spike before mosquitos feed + disappear when they're satiated. When researchers dampened the gene that produces NPF, the mosquitos showed no interest in human skin. When they injected NPF into the same mosquitoes, those not carrying eggs resumed biting + feasting.

Why do we care?! Scientists may be able to create pesticides targeted to tamper NPF, reducing reproduction + disease transmission in areas at high risk of mosquito-borne viruses.

Learn more at Nature. Speaking of mosquitoes...

Healthcare 411

Travelers beware: It’s a big year for dengue (NPR). It’s a record-breaking year for dengue already. The US has seen 2,200 cases so far—mainly in Puerto Rico but some in Florida. It can spread via infected carriers, 75% of whom don’t have symptoms. The unlucky 25% experience flu-like symptoms and severe headaches, and a small percentage will go into shock. Read the article for more about transmission + vaccines.

If you test positive for Covid, can you still travel? (NY Times). Short answer? You shouldn't. The CDC recommends that you remain isolated until you have been fever-free for a full 24 hours without medication + all symptoms are improving. You can still spread the virus to others. So for 5 days, wear masks, distance yourself, wash hands frequently, test before gathering + prioritize air purification. Current variants cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Read up on others to watch for.

For those at high risk, antiviral medication can lower your viral load, help you recover faster + reduce risk of chronic symptoms. But you need to start treatment within 5 days of your first symptoms. To get Paxlovid online within 3 hours, start a $15 online Covid consultation.

​​Why the high court’s 'Chevron'-scuttling decision could shake up health care (US News). The Supreme Court overturned a 1984 precedent, which means courts can now independently judge what Congress meant when drafting a particular law rather than defer to federal agencies. Health experts worry a flood of lawsuits could have judges second-guess care practices, confusing + fragmenting the US healthcare system further.

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