This Spring blew in hot and heavy, and people are treating it like Summer already... with that in mind, here's an early article from the New York Times...
This Summer, Safety First
Heeding some basic safety tips this summer could help to keep you and your companions in the game and out of the emergency room.
As an emergency room physician in Southern California, Dr. Brady Pregerson has seen or heard it all. He incorporates many of the resulting insights in a helpful little book, “Think Twice: More Lessons from the ER,” a sequel to “Don’t Try This at Home: Lessons From the Emergency Department.”
I’ve selected those lessons that are especially relevant for the coming months. But many of the tips can help at other times of the year, especially for those living in the warmer states.
Want some fresh air? Don’t push on the glass when opening windows. “I’ve seen many terrible hand and forearm lacerations from this mistake,” Dr. Pregerson writes. To which I will add: If there are children under age 10 in the house, install window guards. It takes but a moment for a young child to fall out of an open window.
If you work or play in the dirt, be sure your tetanus immunization is up to date. The deadly bacterium Clostridium tetani lives in soil, and it can enter the body through even a small cut or splinter, Dr. Pregerson said in an interview. Children require a vaccine series called DTaP, and adults need a booster every 10 years.
When you mow the lawn, first clear it of sticks and stones that can become flying missiles; wear goggles, and work crosswise on sloped terrain.
Protect yourself and your family from tiny critters that are disease vectors, like mosquitoes that transmit West Nile Encephalitis andticks that spread Lyme disease. A repellent with DEET is effective against both. Suppress the mosquito population around the house by getting rid of standing water, especially after a rain.
Hiking, a summer favorite, is no fun if you get lost in the woods. Try to stick to blazed trails. Dr. Pregerson suggests turning around every so often to identify landmarks that may help guide you back. Let people know where you are going and when you’re likely to return. If you do get lost or caught in a storm, it may be best to stay put in a place where you might be found.
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Try to hike with someone, and take plenty of water, sunscreen, an extra layer of clothing, a compass, knife and some nonperishable food. In wild-animal country, the doctor suggests wearing a “bear bell” on a wrist, ankle, belt or backpack to scare off four-legged hazards.
Avoid vigorous exercise in very hot weather. “I’ve had patients who died of heatstroke from walking four hours in the desert,” Dr. Pregerson said.
But you don’t need to be in a desert to get heatstroke. It can happen to anyone who overworks on a hot day. The elderly, who are especially vulnerable, should stay out of the sun and drink plenty of plain cool liquids.
Although it’s tempting to go barefoot when temperatures rise, that’s a good way to injure a foot, even indoors. Dr. Pregerson has treated several broken toes suffered during a barefoot trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Wear swim shoes around pools and in public showers to reduce the risk of athlete’s foot; on a beach, they can prevent injuries from hidden sharp objects and keep feet comfortable on hot sand.
When camping, remember to shake out your shoes every morning in case a nasty spider or scorpion took refuge in them. Never go to sleep with a campfire still burning. Douse it. Do not keep food inside the tent or hang it in a tree; put it in a car away from sleeping campers.
Some of the most serious summer injuries result from incorrect use of fire starter. Never sprinkle or spray it on embers, as flames can shoot up and burn you badly.
On road trips, Dr. Pregerson suggests keeping your medical insurance card, a list of medications, and key health and allergy information with your driver’s license. He also warns against tailgating, excessive lane changing, and leading other cars on a two-lane highway. You could be the first to hit a deer, for instance, or an oncoming vehicle in the wrong lane.
If you travel with a dog, secure it in a crate or with a harness that attaches to the seatbelt. Pets, like people, can fly around the car if you stop short or are in an accident. I was nearly run down when the driver of a car, with a dog in her lap and its head in her face, turned the corner as I was crossing with the light.
Of course, the driver and all passengers should also be buckled in, and young children secured in age-appropriate car or booster seats. Dr. Pregerson said a child under age 12 should not be in a seat with an air bag, which can break the child’s neck if it inflates. And no child should be left alone in a car in the hot sun, even with a window down.
Do-it-yourselfers should heed basic safety measures, like wearing protective gear when shearing hedges, cutting wood, scraping or spraying paint, or installing insulation.
“Think twice before carrying so much that you cannot see where you’re going,” the doctor warned. “Don’t do a two-person job alone.” One of his patients broke his leg trying to carry a large TV down stairs.
If you’re planning a picnic, don’t keep perishable food at room temperature longer than four hours. Chill foods ahead of time and keep them cold until it’s time to eat or grill them.
No summer safety column would be complete without cautionary words about swimming.
“Don’t swim alone,” Dr. Pregerson said. “Use the buddy system.” Children should be watched closely at all times in and around water. Pools should be protected by a fence and safety gate that a young child cannot open.
Never dive into unknown waters or swim in areas designated off limits. Teenage boys are especially vulnerable to risk-taking and ignoring warning signs. More than one has been crippled or killed by diving headfirst into a hidden obstacle.
Dr. Pregerson offers more tips on staying out of the emergency room this summer at Gotsafety.org.