Traditionally, summer celebrations involve cookouts, trips to the beach, swimming, and fireworks. Each year, there are thousands of accidents, injuries, and health emergencies that occur during summer. It’s important to be aware of the most common health threats and with a little education and planning you can take action to make sure that you keep you and your loved ones safe.
The most common types of injuries that we see over the July 4th holiday and the summer months are sunburns, motor vehicle accidents, and water related injuries.
Believe it or not, the most dangerous day of the year on our nations highways for accidents is actually July 4th. On average, there are 144 driving-related fatalities each year on the 4th of July. Sadly, more than 50 percent of these accidents involve alcohol and nearly 10 percent of fatalities involve teens. It is essential that you use alcohol responsibly. Always designate a sober driver and never mix alcohol and water sports.
One of the more common accidents seen by Emergency Room physicians during the summer are injuries suffered while boating, using jet skis, or swimming. It is essential that when playing in the water that all children are well supervised. A sober adult must be responsible for watching kids in even the shallowest water in order to prevent accidental drowning. Adults and teens should use a buddy system when swimming.
Most importantly, if you are engaging in boating or other water sports, avoid alcohol. Using alcohol while on the water can impair judgment, reduce reaction times, and often results in serious injuries, and, in the worst cases, drowning.
Always keep a cell phone handy when at the beach or other body of water so that you can contact authorities quickly during an emergency. When possible swim only in marked areas with lifeguards and obey all warnings, flags and signs placed on the beach. Never dive head first into a body of water in order to avoid neck or back injuries. If you are at the beach — be aware of rip currents. Remember, if you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore until you are free of the current and then head back to shore.
Sunburn can ruin a great vacation or a holiday weekend. And skin damage suffered during a severe sunburn can put you at high risk for skin cancer later in life. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. today.
If possible, avoid the times of day when the sun is most intense — 10am to 2pm. When outside apply sunscreen liberally (before going out initially) and reapply every two hours. Use sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 and that provides both UVA and UVB protection. If you spend time in the water, reapply sunscreen even more frequently.
Posts by Kevin R. Campbell, M.D.
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