Memorial Day marked the beginning of what we call the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer,” when emergency departments see a sharp rise in traumatic injuries and heat-related illness. As we get into the full swing of summertime, I want to remind everyone of some simple steps to keep you and your loved ones out of the emergency room.
ALWAYS wear a seat belt and/or helmet when operating a moving vehicle (bike, car, ATV, boat, etc.). This is especially important in off-road vehicles. While safety devices may not save you from injury, they can protect your most vital organs. Of course, do not operate any vehicle while drinking alcohol. Despite the well-advertised dangers of drinking alcohol while operating a vehicle, it is still disturbingly common, especially in ATV/UTV and boating accidents.
One of the most common reasons we see patients in the ER in the summer is dehydration. In southern Idaho this is especially common because of the dry climate. The elderly or those on some medications are most vulnerable. The amount of water you need daily varies based on your activity, the heat, and your other medical conditions. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, have excessive thirst, or do not feel the urge to urinate every 2-4 hours after drinking water, seek medical attention. Many of us just forget to drink enough, so keeping a water bottle with you at all times is a good reminder. As an added benefit, staying hydrated is also the best way to prevent kidney stones.
While not usually a medical emergency, sunburn is a common summertime ailment. It not only hurts, but repeated sunburn and sun exposure can lead to skin cancer later in life. This is especially important in children as they are more susceptible to burning and they have a longer time to develop cancers. If your children are like mine, they run and hide when they see the sunscreen bottle, but trust me, they will thank you later. If you do find yourself with that unfortunate stinging sensation from poorly applied sunscreen, wash and clean the affected area with cool water and mild soap. Then apply over-the-counter aloe vera burn cream several times a day. You can also take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help reduce the pain.
Please remember to watch your children carefully around water, and remind them to stay out of irrigation canals. Every year we see tragic accidents that occur in pools and rivers with young, inexperienced swimmers. Make sure you always have an adult watching your children, and I encourage the use of approved life jackets and flotation devices even in pools. Also, it’s a great time to take swimming lessons to build swimming skills and reinforce water safety habits.
Hopefully, you will have a fun and safe summer. Just keep in mind these few simple safety tips to help avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room.