What Is Summer Fatigue?
It’s summer. The weather is lovely, and it’s time to spend some time outdoors! So why is it that you’re experiencing a loss of energy?
Long, warm and bright days can boost serotonin levels, making us feel good. However, heat can also cause fatigue. The human body protects itself against overheating in hot weather by producing perspiration to cool itself down. But when we’re exposed to excessive heat for long periods of time, our defence mechanism can sometimes fail. When the body is trying very hard to cool down, cortisol levels increase, which can cause symptoms such as tiredness, lethargy, loss of appetite and even depression. In Japan, this condition is called ‘natsubate’, which can be translated as ‘summer fatigue’.
You can help improve your body’s defences against the heat by drinking plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and replenish the minerals lost through perspiration. You can also eat foods that are easy to digest so your body doesn’t have to use more energy than necessary! It can be beneficial to adopt a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin C and B vitamins to combat tiredness. (Consider adding nuts, spinach and apple to those salads!) Regular exercise will also help you sweat more effectively.
Summer fatigue is rarely serious, and it’s usually fairly easy to treat. However, it can also be a symptom of Lyme disease.
The Great Imitator
Lyme disease can be identified by the distinctive circular, ‘bull’s-eye’ rash that appears shortly after the infection has occurred. However, the rash is only observed in 70–80% of people after they have contracted the disease. In cases where the rash is unseen or unrecognised, the illness is difficult to diagnose because it can masquerade as several other types of infection. About 50% of patients present with flu-like symptoms within a week of being infected. Since the seasonal peak of Lyme disease is from May until September, it is often initially misdiagnosed as the summer flu. This seasonal peak also overlaps with that of other viral illnesses, such as enteroviral infections.
Lyme Disease Diagnosis and Treatment
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by ticks. In addition to the rash, the most common symptoms are fatigue, fever, headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, changes in vision, and painful, stiff or swollen joints. Night sweats, sleep disturbances, cognitive decline and other neurological symptoms may also occur.
Testing for Borrelia burgdorferi during the early onset of the illness may not be of much help and can even be misleading. False negative results are extremely common in the first month after infection: they are registered in approximately 60% of cases.
Lyme Disease Symptoms in Children
Lyme disease is most often diagnosed in children between five and 14 years of age. Children can have all the signs and symptoms mentioned above that adults have, but they may not always be able to explain exactly what they feel and where.
Children are more likely to have joint pain and stiffness as an initial symptom, with the knee being the most commonly affected. Also, you may be able to tell that they have lost their appetite. As the illness progresses, you may notice frequent mood swings and a decline in school performance. You may also observe some changes in your child’s speech, social interactions and movement coordination.
What to Do If You Think You’ve Contracted Lyme Disease
See a doctor as soon as possible if you get flu-like symptoms or a rash and you’ve been bitten by a tick or visited a forest or grassy area in the past month. If you have long-lasting symptoms or suspect that the infection may have occurred several months ago, it can be a good idea to go straight to a specialist in microbiology or infectious diseases. Before your visit to the doctor, make a list of your symptoms and when they began, as well as any medications and supplements you take.
After returning home from a wooded area with high grass, especially where there are deer, make sure you carefully check yourself and any children for ticks. If you do find a tick, remove it as quickly as possible using tweezers with fine points. Take hold of the tick very close to the skin and pull it upwards without twisting it, ensuring you remove it in one piece.
Next, keep an eye on the bite. If you develop a rash in the area around it, you are likely to have Lyme disease. But if there’s no rash, it doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t contracted it. If within a few weeks or months you develop flu-like symptoms, you feel tired and some of your joints are aching, you should see a doctor. You need to tell them about the tick bite and exactly where you were when it happened, so they can assess the probability of it being Lyme disease. They may then prescribe a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection. Doctors won’t normally prescribe antibiotics unless there is a good chance that you’ve contracted Lyme disease.
Early Diagnosis Is Crucial
Lyme disease is a potentially serious illness with a long and diverse list of possible symptoms. The sooner you get diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. Try to look for a Lyme-aware doctor if you suspect you might have been infected!