UPMC physician: Tips to enjoy summer safely
Summer is here and after last year’s pandemic you may be looking to get the most out of the season. You’ve probably got plenty of celebrations, barbecues, road trips, and family fun planned, so don’t let a preventable injury get in your way.
Enjoy all the season has to offer and consider the following tips to help stay injury-free and out of the emergency room:
• Keep an Eye on Swimmers — When the temperatures climb, it’s fun and refreshing to hop in a pool or pond or go for a float in the creek. You should always supervise weaker swimmers around water. Try appointing someone as lifeguard, rather than assuming one of your partygoers is keeping an eye on swimmers. Make sure younger children are within arm’s reach in the water, and never drink alcohol while swimming or supervising swimmers.
• Stay Safe Under the Sun — There’s no better feeling than soaking in the summer sun — but don’t forget sunscreen. Skin can become severely burned after just a few hours in the sun, which can increase your risk of skin cancer in the long run. Also, consider providing shade, like umbrellas or covered picnic areas, to reduce sun exposure for yourself and your guests. A hat and sunglasses can offer extra coverage. Don’t forget to reapply the sunscreen after two hours of sun exposure.
It’s also important to stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day, heat-related illness can be very serious and even life-threatening. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Drink plenty of water and if you want to mix it up, choose a non-alcoholic and caffeine-free beverage.
• Don’t Get Burned by a Fire or the Grill — Hot dogs, hamburgers, and corn on the cob: These summertime staples are traditionally cooked up on a grill outside. But before you break out the grill, make sure it has been thoroughly cleaned. Dirty grills cause many injuries, particularly propane grills. Keep items that you don’t want grilled away from the flame, and don’t wear loose clothing while you grill. After your barbecue is over, make sure coals are completely out, and the propane is turned off.
A great ending to many summer nights includes a group of friends around a campfire, but it is important to make sure everyone stays safe. Alcohol and fires usually mean trouble. Alcohol impairs judgment and it can be a dangerous combination with fire. Watch children around open flames and teach them fire safety. While campfires are another favorite summer pastime, the potential for burns, especially to unsupervised children, is high. Keep flammable liquids away from tents. Build your fire downwind from your campsite. Put the fire out before going to bed. Make sure the fire is fully extinguished when unattended. Even smoldering coals can reignite and get out of control if left unattended.
• Drink Responsibly — Alcohol might be a part of your summer celebration. If so, decide in advance how much alcohol you are going to be drinking, and stick to your plan. The National Institutes of Health advises men from age 21 to 65 to have no more than four drinks in a day. Women should have no more than three, according to the institutes. If you are driving, do not drink and drive. Elect a designated driver or find alternate transportation home.
Drinking alcohol dehydrates the body, which can be worsened by an afternoon in the sun. Consume plenty of water in addition to your beverage of choice and don’t drink on an empty stomach.
• Use Extra Caution with Fireworks — Nothing wraps up a great summer party better than a blazing fireworks display. Some towns and cities allow for select smaller fireworks to be enjoyed at home. If that’s the case, follow your local laws about what kind of fireworks are permitted.
Fireworks should be lit outside in an area without flammable branches or grass. Have a water hose or bucket of water handy to extinguish spent fireworks. After you light a firework, get away to a safe distance. Don’t try to hold a firework in your hand after it’s lit, and do not light it into a container of any kind. Only responsible adults should light fireworks. Always ensure they are safely disposed of after the fun is over.
It is also important to remember many pets are scared and stressed by fireworks. If you own a dog, make sure they are in a secure place, and don’t let strangers check on them. Dogs can be more aggressive when in a heightened state of stress.
Summer is one of the most beautiful times of the year in north central Pennsylvania. With planning, you and your family can enjoy the season and the summer holidays without having to make a trip to the emergency department. If an accident does occur, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
Dr. Ronen Elefant is an emergency services physician and medical director of Acute Care Services at UPMC in North Central Pa. For more information on Emergency Services at UPMC in North Central Pa., visit UPMC.com/Emergency.