Don’t let summer fun send you to the hospital. Here’s how to avoid common injuries and illness.
Every year, emergency room (ER) visits across the country spike as temperatures rise and people spend more time outdoors. The activities and festivities we enjoy during the summer months may help us improve our physical and mental health, as we tend to be more physically active and socially connected. But these same activities may also make it more likely we’ll get injured or sick.
These are some of the most common injuries doctors and nurses treat in the emergency department during the summer months:
- Sprains, strains, cuts, broken bones and other orthopedic injuries: The more active you are, the higher the risk of an injury, particularly if you’ve gotten a little out of shape over the winter. No matter your age, it’s not uncommon to injure your knee sliding into second base during a softball game or twist your ankle playing basketball. Sports and recreational activities most likely to result in ER visits in people ages 5 to 24 include football, basketball, cycling, soccer, ice or roller skating and skateboarding, according to the National Health Statistics Report.
- Burns: Hot grills, backyard fire pits, sparklers and fireworks can cause serious burns in both children and adults. In fact, fireworks alone were responsible for 10,000 ER visits in 2019, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Dehydration: Spending too much time sweating in the hot sun may lead to fainting, dizziness, nausea, confusion and other symptoms of dehydration. If you don’t drink enough to replace lost body fluids, you may soon find yourself in the ER due to dehydration or heat exhaustion.
- Drowning: Drownings and near-drownings can occur in any body of water, from kiddie pools to lakes to the ocean. The highest drowning rates are in children ages 1 to 4 and drowning is more common in males than females, but it can happen to anyone.
- Sunburn: If you have a severe or blistering sunburn accompanied by nausea, chills, headache, pain, high fever or confusion, the ER is the best place to be. In 2014, more than 33,000 people visited the ER due to severe sunburns, according to a study published in Practice Update.
- Foodborne Illnesses: Hot temperatures make it much easier for bacteria to grow on food. If you eat food that’s been sitting outside for hours, you may be more likely to spend time in the ER due to food poisoning.
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Staying vigilant when enjoying summer activities may help you avoid an unexpected trip to the hospital. The tips below make it less likely you’ll experience the types of injuries and illnesses listed above that can send you to the ER:
- Wear helmets, pads and other protective equipment when riding bikes or playing sports.
- Warm up before engaging in physical activities to reduce the chance of injury.
- Set off fireworks far from people and houses.
- Supervise children carefully around fires, grills and fireworks.
- Drink plenty of fluids on hot days, even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty.
- Don’t swim alone or assume children are safe in water because they’ve had swimming lessons.
- Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to lower your risk of painful burns and skin cancer. Get out of the sun at the first signs of sunburn.
- Keep food refrigerated or well chilled in a cooler until you’re ready to grill or serve it.
- Refrigerate food promptly after serving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends refrigerating food after two hours if it’s less than 90 degrees outside or within one hour if the temperature exceeds 90 degrees.
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Date Last Reviewed: May 11, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD