Summer is a time of freedom and fun, bringing more social activity and family days out. With all the extra outdoor living there are bound to be one or two mishaps, so here are the most common risks to health and well-being during the summer months.
It’s easier than you might imagine to be overcome by heat stroke. It’s one of the most common summer emergencies. Simply undertaking normal activities without due care and attention can leave you vulnerable and result in heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heatstroke. Extremely dangerous, heatstroke can be fatal if it is left untreated. Symptoms include very high body temperatures (above 104°F), feeling or being sick, fainting, seizures and confusion, feeling disorientated, intense headaches, rapid breathing and an increased heart rate. Emergency treatment is needed to bring the body temperature down to a normal level and treat related symptoms.
Higher levels of physical activity often lead to higher instances of broken bones of head injuries. Most bumps to the head are harmless and, whilst painful at the time, don’t lead to serious injuries. Concussion is a risk, so if there is any headache or stiff neck, vomiting or feeling sleepy or confused, or a loss of mobility in the limbs, emergency treatment is needed.
In the case of fractures anywhere on the body, the emergency room can help set things straight. Fractures are not always immediately obvious, so if there is difficulty using the affected area, pain, warmth or swelling, or any obvious deformity, suspect a fracture and seek emergency treatment.
Bee and wasp stings can be especially dangerous for those with allergies. People previously diagnosed with an allergy to bee or wasp venom should carry an Epi-pen that should be used as soon after the sting as possible. Dangerous warning signs to look out for include swelling of the tongue or throat, difficulty breathing, and nausea. There may also be fainting or dizziness, or skin reactions such as rashes or hives.
All snakebites should be treated as serious because we often don’t know whether the snake is venomous or not. While many bites are not life threatening, unless you are certain the snake is harmless you should seek antivenin treatment at the emergency room.
Asthma sufferers, both young and old, have a bad time during the summer thanks to higher levels of air pollution and pollen counts. Make sure you have a ready supply of controlling medications, and keep an eye on local air conditions. Where levels are very high, it may be prudent to stay indoors, but if you are caught unawares with a severe attack, the emergency room can help bring your breathing under control.
Otitis Externa, commonly known as swimmer’s ear, is common during the summer months due to heat and humidity promoting bacterial growth in the ear canal. The best way to prevent infection is by thoroughly drying the ears. You may need to tilt the head and gently tug on earlobes to open up the ear canal and let trapped water drain out after swimming.
Poisoning is twice as likely during the summertime than at other times of the year since bacterial loves hot humid weather. It is estimated that around 76 million people suffer from food poisoning each year. Perishable foods should never be left out of refrigeration for more than two hours, reducing to one hour if the temperature goes above 90°F. Food poisoning can be dangerous, causing dehydration that can lead to kidney and heart problems.
Backyards and wooded areas are popular playgrounds for adults and children alike during the summer, and insects such as ticks like them too. Unfortunately, these can pass on Lyme disease, which is one of the most common insect borne diseases in the United States. Lyme disease can cause fever, body rashes and aches, headaches, arthritis or facial paralysis and can have serious consequences if left untreated. Fortunately, it is easily treated with antibiotics, so it is recommended that you always check for ticks when leaving wooded areas, and seek treatment if you suspect a tick bite.
Urushiol is a common allergen affecting around 85% of the population. It’s found in the sap of poison oak, poison sumac and poison ivy, and causes painful itching and swelling. It is easily treated at home with calamine lotion or a hydrocortisone cream, but if the rash appears on the face or genitals, you should seek medical treatment.
If all this makes summer sound like a threatening time of year, it’s important to keep things in proportion. Most people make it through to Fall totally unscathed, with the rest suffering only minor discomfort. It’s simply helpful to be aware of the major summer emergencies, and know how to deal with them should they crop up.