Those Summer Days

Young adults having fun on a hike

Ah, yes, roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer where sitting under a shade tree with lemonade and a summer breeze makes you feel fine. Ninety dazzling days or thereabouts for beaches and barbeques, hikes and hammocks, and s’mores and night swims, taking it all in with the aim of having hot fun in the summertime. Oh yeah, summertime when the living is easy with nary a care in the world, save for some concern over summer’s health hazards. Too bad the worry couldn’t be washed away like a sandcastle in the tidal surf. Well, here are some safety tips for summer-related risks because there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues better than being informed to act preventatively.

According to WebMD in consultation with Dr. Ryan Stanton, an emergency room physician, the following are the top seven hazards that bring summer celebrators into his emergency room most often.

Mower mishaps: As Dr. Stanton states, "In the warmer months we see lots of mower injuries -- toes, hands, and fingers getting caught in blades, and things like rocks and sticks getting flung out of them. People start tinkering with the mower and reach under it to unclog it and forget there's a spinning blade there. Those are hideous injuries."

For “mow” safety, the good doctor advises wearing closed-toed shoes, preferably steel-toed along with wearing eye protection, gloves, and long pants. Keep kids clear of the mower and off riding types. Use a professional for mower service or learn to service and maintain a mower safely, like disconnecting the spark plug wire when cleaning the blade or clearing the chute.

Boating blunders: Ahoy, party on the barge for a booze cruise! Dr. Stanton advises against this and comments, "People's biggest mistake by far is drinking and boating. People get out there and drink alcohol all day in the sun, and you end up with the same accidents you have with driving -- with the added risks of falling out of boats, getting hit by propellers, and drowning."

Life jackets for all aboard is a must and should be worn by anyone who can’t swim. Basic life saving skills for at least one person is essential through first aid and CPR training. Be familiar with boating rules and water safety.

Dehydration disasters: Heat stress can quickly become a medical emergency as it progresses to heat stroke. Drink plenty of fluids especially water (8 fluid ounces every 15-20 minutes), avoid vigorous activity during the heat of the day, and take frequent rest breaks. Immediately move someone indoors who is displaying heat exhaustion symptoms (profuse sweating, cold and clammy skin, nausea or vomiting, dizziness). Cool them down with a cold-compress or cloth and monitor them closely.

Sunburn snafus: We’re well aware that prolonged sun exposure can cause skin cancer. In fact, some sources state that the risk for melanoma doubles with just five sunburns. Dr. Stanton says, "A sunburn is a first-degree burn, right up there with thermal burns. And we even see some second-degree thermal burns, often when people are out drinking or falling asleep in the sun and don't realize how long they've been out there."

Cover exposed skin surfaces with sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays and check the UV index on your phone’s weather app. Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming. Wear tropical weight long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats to limit sun exposure.

Picnic poisoning: "Anything that has mayonnaise, dairy, or eggs in it and any meat products can develop some pretty nasty bacteria after only a couple of hours unrefrigerated," says Dr. Stanton. "Every summer we'll have five or six people coming in from the same reunion or family picnic with food poisoning symptoms.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following to prevent food poisoning.

Thoroughly wash your hands and food prep surfaces. Tightly wrap raw meat, storing it separately, and cook meat thoroughly checking the internal temperature with a meat thermometer, e.g., chicken at 165 degrees F. Keep all perishable food items chilled on ice in a cooler as long as possible before feasting.

Fireworks fiascos: Pyrotechnics pleasure isn’t just for Independence Day. The E.D. doc especially warns about sparklers, "Everybody loves to give sparklers to kids, but they burn very hot and can cause significant eye injuries. They can go off quickly and cause burns or just explode in your hand."

It’s best to keep children away from fireworks and even better to leave fireworks displays in the hands of a professional. But if you can’t resist, keep a water-hose or fire extinguisher handy. 

Summertime stings: According to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, nearly 7 million people in the U.S. have life-threatening allergies to insect stings. Keeping an epi-pen with you when outdoors is advised. Dr. Stanton states, "In the vast majority of people, the reaction will outlast the pen, so once you've used it, you should still go to the ER for observation or further treatment. The pen buys time."

When outdoors, avoid perfumes and floral scents, wear light-colored clothing without floral patterns, and keep a cover on sugary drinks.

Those summer days are fleeting so enjoy them to the fullest - injury free. For more information on outdoor safety, check out these MEMIC posts.