Start Your Summer Off Safely
June 20 marked the official start of summer and with it the season of picnics, vacations, and outdoor recreation. Although summer promises fun times with family and friends, it also can present some health and safety challenges.
Twenty-seven percent of all visits to emergency departments take place during the summer months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and nearly half of all accidental, injury-related deaths of children 14 and younger occur during June, July and August.
Penn State Health St. Joseph’s ER staff is gearing up for a busy season, but there are ways to minimize the chances that you or a family member will require a visit there.
About 3,500 people in the United States drown each year, and drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under 5. Never let a child swim while unattended, whether in a backyard pool, lake or ocean. If you have a pool, make sure it is fenced and has a self-locking gate. Everyone in a boat should wear a life jacket, and be sure you know the depth of water before you dive in.
When it’s hot outside, especially over a prolonged period, take extra steps to stay cool. No one wants to stay inside, but avoid being outside in the direct sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you are out, use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and consider investing in sun-protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water; avoid beverages that contain alcohol or caffeine. If you don’t have air conditioning, circulate air in your home with fans. Take cool showers and sleep without covers. Be sure to check on elderly friends and relatives during hot weather.
Recognizing Heat-Related Illnesses
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency attention. Body temperature can rise quickly during heat stroke, reaching 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes as the body is unable to regulate temperature. Symptoms may include rapid pulse; dizziness; nausea; red, hot, dry skin with no sweating; a throbbing headache; confusion; and unconsciousness. Heat exhaustion, which is the body’s response to excessive loss of water and salt from sweating, is a less serious condition, but if not treated can lead to heat stroke. Symptoms can include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, paleness and headache. Use common sense; if you or someone with you shows any signs of heat-related distress, get to a cool place, rest and seek medical attention.
Bicycles, skateboards, trampolines, fireworks, ladders, lawn mowers and outdoor grills are the causes of thousands of accidents every summer – most of which are avoidable. Children and adults should always wear a helmet while biking. Avoid biking at night if your bike doesn’t have lights and wear reflective clothing in darkness. Use common sense when climbing a ladder. Limit the number of children (preferably one at a time) on a trampoline and use protective gear while skateboarding. Always read grill instructions and use caution when lighting the grill. Keep children away from fireworks and opt for a professional display instead of home fireworks. Use caution when cutting grass, always using closed-toe shoes and protective eyewear.
Keeping Critters at Bay
Wildlife encounters are not common, but they do occur. If you see a wild animal in the woods or elsewhere, do not approach it. Tell children not to approach dogs they do not know. Avoid ticks as much as possible by staying to the middle of trails. Insect repellents that contain DEET can protect you for several hours, and you can use a product containing permethrin to treat clothing, camping gear and boots. Ticks can cause a variety of diseases, including Lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Zika virus is a generally mild illness that is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, making it important to take extra caution to avoid them. Avoid having standing water on your property, screen your windows and apply insect repellant before going outside, if you live in an area where mosquitos are a problem.
Summer is a great time to get outside, move around and make memories. Good doses of common sense and caution will go a long way toward keeping you safe and healthy.