Have fun this summer, safely!

Have fun this summer, safely! – The Last Word

Bruce Bonanno

I love summer, don’t you? I live in New Jersey and when I think of summer, I think of the sun, sand, and surf. My favorite summertime activities include windsurfing and golf, What does summer mean to you? Depending on where you live, it could be swimming, bike riding, rollerblading, family trips, picnics and barbecues, or outdoor concerts. The list of things we all enjoy doing in the summer is endless.

I have been an emergency room (ER) doctor for almost 20 years, and sometimes I can also have a different view of summer. Every day I see what happens when people aren’t careful in the pursuit of having summer fun and they end up “visiting” me. So when I think of summer, I also think of all the things that go wrong. The list of health problems that occur in the summer is also endless.

Over the years, I have worked in all kinds of ERs–urban, suburban, rural, mountain, and beach areas. Tire summer injuries and illnesses that all areas seem to have in common include head injuries and broken bones from falls, foodborne illness, drowning, and drug overdoses. I know that some things are beyond a person’s control and are unavoidable, while others may be preventable or the damage could be limited.

“I was just going out for five minutes” is the No. I excuse I hear from people who didn’t use safety equipment when using bikes, blades, boards, or scooters.

The second most common excuse I hear is that the safety equipment is “uncomfortable to wear.” If I hear either of those excuses, it usually means that you are very uncomfortable now in the ER and you are spending more than five minutes of your time! You can fall even when you are just standing still.

Don’t you love the food at barbecues and picnics? I’m also sure you don’t like vomiting or having the diarrhea that comes with eating bad food. A simple rule to follow is to not eat hot food that has become cold, or cold food that has become hot.

Drowning occurs more often in fresh water and pools than in salt water. Young children, adolescents, and people who are intoxicated are most at risk. Never swim alone, never leave young children unattended when near water, and know the area you are swimming in.

I work in an ER that is located next to an outdoor concert center and not far from beach areas. Come springtime, the concert schedule is announced, and we are always jammed with patients on the days of the concerts. The majority of illnesses and injuries are related to drug use, whether it’s alcohol or other substances. There are not only overdoses of these substances, but there are injuries that result when people are unable to control themselves because of the effects that drugs have on their coordination. It always amazes us in the ER how some people end up missing the concert they had come to see!

Children will be rushed to emergency departments nearly 3 million times in the summer for serious injuries, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Nearly half of all deaths from unintentional injuries in children occur from May to August.

SAFE KIDS recommends that children: Ride Safe: When in a vehicle, children should be properly secured in child safety seats and seatbelts, and should ride in the back seat.

Swim Safe: Children should always be supervised near water, including bathtubs and pools. Personal flotation devices should be used on boats and during water sports.

Wheel Safe: Children should wear properly fitting helmets and other protective gear when riding bikes, scooters, skates or skateboards. Teach children rules of the road such as safely crossing streets.

Walk Safe: Children younger than 10 shouldn’t cross the street alone.

Play Safe: Children should be supervised at playgrounds and should play on safe surfaces such as mulch, rubber, or fine sand. They should also wear appropriate protective gear when playing team sports.

Keep in mind that you can use many of the tips all year long.

What would summer be without the fun things we like to do? So remember, have fun this summer. Just do it safely!

Bruce Bonanno, M.D., is an emergency physician at Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel, N.J., and a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.

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