Summertime Is Trauma Season – Heed These Tips to Stay Out of the Emergency Room

Because people are outdoors more in the warmer months of summer, we tend to see more outdoor-injury-related visits from adults and children to our Emergency Department than at any other time of the year.
For example, swimming is one of the most popular summer activities, along with boating on our spectacular waterways.
To prevent drowning, children need to be supervised at all times around bodies of water, and home pools need to be secured with barriers high enough so that a child can’t climb over them. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1 to 4.
We also see cases of people fracturing their necks from diving into shallow water, whether in the backyard pool or at the local pond. What can happen is that, when a person breaks their neck, they lose control of their arms and drown. Even if they survive their initial neck injury, these patients may have permanent neurological damage and can lose the use of their arms or legs.
Make water safety your priority by enrolling in American Red Cross courses in home pool safety, water safety, first aid, and CPR/AED courses. These can help you prevent and respond to injuries.
 
In the Driver’s Seat
Just as you have a responsibility behind the wheel of a car, the same holds true when driving a boat or other personal watercraft like jet skis, or on land riding a motorcycle. Obey the rules of the road and the waterways by not speeding. When boating, keep a safe distance from other boaters and swimmers. And don’t drink and drive.
We have seen many fracture injuries when a boat hits the shoals and people are tossed out of the craft, or when two jet skiers crash into one another.
Therefore, when riding a motorcycle or bicycle, don’t leave home without your helmet, and be very aware of other drivers who may not see you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helmets reduce the risk of death by 37{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} and the risk of head injury by 69{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} for motorcyclists.
All-terrain vehicles are another concern during the summer months. According to Massachusetts OHV Laws and Regulations, “all recreational vehicle operators and those being towed are required to wear an approved, securely fastened helmet at all times.”
Summer is also grilling season. Unfortunately, each year, thousands of people suffer burns from grilling and property is damaged due to fires started by grills (see related story, page 18).
Whether gas or charcoal, keep children several feet away from the burning hot grill and the grill several feet away from a house or other structures. Also, when using an accelerant, such as charcoal lighter fluid or starting a gas grill, keep a safe distance between you and the grill when initially lighting it, as the fumes may ignite, and if you are too close to the grill, you can get burned.
Meanwhile, gathering around the firepit has also become a popular practice today when entertaining. Consider them just like a campfire and keep children a safe distance from them so they don’t trip and fall into the firepit.
Lawnmower accidents are also common in the summer for both adults and children, resulting in serious injuries to the fingers, hands, and feet, including amputations. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year some 800 children are run over by riding mowers or small tractors. Debris can also be thrown by the mower, possibly leading to blunt trauma.
Always wear hearing protection and eye protection when using mowers, which may assist in preserving sight and hearing. Keep your children indoors when you are mowing the lawn, and be sure you don’t operate your mower barefoot.
 
The Rest of the Story
With the many stories heard each summer about children dying of heat stroke after being left in a hot car, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone to never, ever leave a child alone in a carm whatever the temperature — hot or cold.
Another trauma-related injury is children falling out of open windows. Screens are not enough to keep children inside. Parents need to install window guards or stops, which keep windows from opening more than four inches.
Summer falls in general are a big risk for adults, especially for seniors who are susceptible year-round, and for children, too. Adults are at risk while outdoors climbing ladders to paint the house or trim a tree, while kids can fall at the playground around jungle gyms and slides. Slipping on wet surfaces around the pool is another hazard.
Even something as healthy as hiking, a popular summer and fall activity, can turn tragic. Hikers can fall and break a leg or get lost in the woods and find themselves spending a cold night outdoors, where they can develop hypothermia. Additionally, an otherwise healthy-appearing person might develop chest pains while hiking, not realizing they have an underlying heart condition. A person with asthma or COPD could have their illness triggered by a pollen or the exertion during an outdoor activity, and if they have an episode while hiking and have forgotten their inhaler, it could lead to tragic circumstances.
Also, with increased bear sightings today, it’s a good idea to be ‘bear-savvy.’ It goes without saying that you never want to provoke or approach a bear, especially a mother and her cubs. Hike with others and make noise so a bear can hear you coming and hopefully scamper off. Also consider purchasing bear pepper spray and learning how to use it properly.
In summary, a little caution and taking the necessary precautions can go a long way toward making your summer more injury-free and enjoyable for you and your children.

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