Fun and Safety in the Sun

Summer Stage sponsor St. David’s Children’s Hospital is a proud supporter of #AllSummerLong and summer safety. Pediatric physician Brian S. Skrainka, M.D. blogs below about ways to have a safe, fun, and stress-free summer.

Summer has arrived, and while many people are planning vacations and summer camps, emergency room doctors are preparing for what they call “trauma season” due to the increase in emergency room visits and the severity of injuries.

Typically, people are more active in the summer. They often spend more time outdoors, go to the lake and travel for summer vacations. When you combine a greater number of active people, an increase in travel and extreme temperatures, opportunities for accidents and injury also spike.

However, with some thoughtful planning and common sense, serious injuries can often be prevented.

Travel. As a motorist, it’s important to have a heightened sense of awareness, especially during high-traffic times.

Always wear your seatbelt, and eliminate distracting elements in the car, such as texting and emailing. Be sure any children or pets are safely secured, and keep them occupied with a toy or activity so they do not distract you while you are driving.

Equipment. Central Texas is an active community. No matter which activity you choose, you should always wear the proper safety gear to protect yourself. One of the most important pieces of safety equipment is a helmet. Helmets should be worn at all times when you are bicycling, skateboarding and motorcycling, among other activities. It is also important to ensure the helmet fits securely each time you put it on.

Wear reflective clothing if you are sharing the road with motorists. Runners and cyclists should be especially careful. Try to run or bike during daylight hours when motorists have better visibility. If the daytime heat is too much for you—and you choose to hit the road at dusk or dawn—wear clothes with reflective patches to make it easier for motorists to see you.

Falls. Falls are one of the most common types of traumatic injuries we see in the emergency room. People can lose their footing and fall at home, on a boat or even at the movies, resulting in a serious injury. If you are doing something that increases your chances of a fall, such as climbing a ladder to clean the gutters, be extra cautious and take your time. Be sure that every piece of equipment you are using is in proper working condition. If you must climb to a higher position for an activity, be sure you have a sturdy base and an easy, safe way to come down.

Water. In Texas, the prime season for lake and pool activities extends well beyond the summer months. It’s important to remain vigilant when children are playing in or near water because an accident can happen in an instant. If you are in a large group, it’s also important to have a buddy system in place so someone will know if you are missing. In a drowning situation, quick action is critical.

When boating on the lake, make sure you have enough life jackets on board for every person. If you are in the water, you should wear a life jacket at all times. Make sure the life jacket fits properly and that there’s no excess room above the openings that would allow the life jacket to ride up over your chin or face.

Before jumping or diving into the water, be sure you know the depth of the water. Diving into shallow water could result in a head, neck or spine injury.

If you have a backyard pool, never let children swim without adult supervision, and check to make sure you have a self-latching gate around the pool or yard. To prevent sunburns and skin cancer, wear sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 when outdoors.

Accidents are mistakes that happen without warning. While they are not completely avoidable, you should prepare yourself for “what if” scenarios to limit their effects. Having the proper safety guards in place can help you enjoy your activities the rest of this summer—and well into the fall.

Brian S. Skrainka, M.D., is the medical director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at St. David’s Children’s Hospital.

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