Avoiding Summer Health Pitfalls
Summer means fun, but it also can bring medical emergencies, ranging from broken bones to heat stroke. AAMC encourages you to take care of yourself during this season.
So, what are some of the top reasons people go the Emergency Department during the summer and how can you prevent them from happening to you or your loved ones?
Drink plenty of water. When you’re exposed to extremely high temperatures, it can cause your body to lose too much fluid through sweating. If that fluid is not replaced, the result is dehydration, a potentially dangerous condition.
Symptoms of dehydration include extreme thirst, fatigue, cramps, dry lips and tongue, increase body temperature and a rapid pulse. It is important to pay attention to signals of water loss and minimize the risk of dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day – before thirst sets in.
Avoid being physically active for long periods of time during the hottest times of day. Heat stroke is a serious heat-related illness that occurs from prolonged or intense exposure to hot temperatures. Your body’s sweating mechanism fails and is unable to cool you down. Your body temperature may quickly rise to as high as 106 degrees. Symptoms of heat stroke include high body temperature (above 103 degrees); hot, dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness, nausea; confusion and unconsciousness.
Heat stroke can result in death, brain damage, or damage to other organs if emergency treatment is not given. Call for emergency medical assistance immediately. You should move a heat stroke victim to a shady or cool area. Try to reduce the body temperature by placing the victim in a cool tub of water or a cool shower. You can place ice packs on the groin, neck or underarm. But do not give fluids!
Avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when it is at its strongest. Too much sun can result in sunburn, which occurs when your exposure to the sun exceeds your body’s ability to protect your skin. This built-in skin protection is called melanin.
The more melanin in your skin, the more protection there is from the sun. If you’re fair-skinned, sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes of midday sun exposure, while a darker-skinned person may tolerate the same exposure for hours.
Sunburn symptoms can include skin redness and pain, swelling, blisters, fever, headaches and nausea. Pain is usually worse one to two days after the sun exposure.
It’s best to prevent sunburn in the first place. You should wear protective clothing to cover your skin. Sunscreen should be generously applied. Sun-screen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or greater is recommended.
To treat sunburn, take a cool shower or bath and apply cool cloths to the burn. Apply moisturizing cream to the affected areas. Topical steroid ointments (hydrocortisone cream) can reduce swelling and pain. Do not use products that contain benzocaine and avoid the use of Vaseline®.
Insist that your children wear protective gear (and you do the same) when riding bikes, skateboarding and skating. Even when you follow these rules, accidents do happen. In the summertime, the incidence of broken bones rises. Many of these are fractures of the arms. When falling, children generally put their arms out to break their fall. Instead, they break their arm.
When skateboarding, never hitch a ride behind a moving vehicle and never ride on the street. Children younger than eight years of age should be under adult supervision. Skating should be done on an even, smooth surface.
Kids will be kids, though, and broken bones may be inevitable. Pain, swelling, bruising, numbness and tingling are symptoms that suggest a broken bone. If you suspect a broken bone, immobilize the injured limb to prevent movement and apply ice. Seek immediate attention.