Summer days mean more time outdoors to enjoy a variety of activities. Whether your family likes to swim, bike, boat, hike, run, or picnic in the park, putting safety first can help prevent unintended trips to the emergency room. Four North Texas emergency physicians offer tips to avoid interrupting the family summer fun.
1. “Rely on your eyes, not your ears, for water safety.”
“It only takes four to six minutes for a submerged child to drown or sustain permanent brain injury,” says Bryan Thibodeau, MD, medical director of the emergency department at Medical City Las Colinas. “Never take your eyes off of children who are in the water. Children who are drowning are often too exhausted to call out. Rely on your eyes, not your ears, for water safety.”
- Know how to swim.
- Keep pool safety gates locked.
- Swim with a buddy.
- Always wear a personal floatation device that’s properly fitted and buckled for all water sports.
- Limit distractions. Cell phone use and alcohol consumption, among other distractions, can distract from watching children and contribute to accidents.
2. “Protect against sunburn, dehydration, and heat illness.”
“Texas sun and heat can be extremely dangerous. You have to continually protect against sunburn, dehydration, and heat illness,” says Kevin Martens, MD, emergency medicine physician at Medical City McKinney. “Just 15 minutes of UV ray exposure can cause sunburn, which may not turn red for hours. And physical activity in high temperatures can lead quickly to dehydration, heat rash, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, which is a serious medical emergency.”
- Avoid heavy activity during periods of extreme heat.
Use SPF 30 or higher sunscreen, and reapply to all exposed skin every two hours.
- Choose UVA/UVB sunscreens that use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide for children.
- Drink water every 15 minutes, and avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
- If you suspect someone has heat exhaustion or heat stroke, call 911 immediately.
3. “If your child rides anything with wheels, insist they wear a helmet.”
“Injuries from falls and pedestrian accidents while riding bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and ATVs can range from bad scrapes and broken limbs to traumatic brain injuries, the leading cause of death and disability in children and adolescents. The Center for Head Injury Services found that wearing a helmet could have prevented 85 percent of head injuries in bicycle accidents,” says Holly Baselle, DO, medical director of the emergency department at Medical Center of Alliance. “If your child rides anything with wheels, insist they wear a helmet.”
- Helmets should meet Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.
- For skateboards and scooters, a helmet that meets the ASTM F1492 standard offers the best protection. Check the packaging for safety standards.
- Riders should also wear wrist guards and elbow and kneepads at all times.
- Replace any helmet that has been through an impact. It will not be effective during a second incident.
4. “Use bug repellents and watch your step outdoors.”
“Bug bites and stings or a brush with poison ivy are generally minor, but be watchful. Anyone can have a sudden allergic reaction at any time. Also, mosquitos in North Texas can carry West Nile Virus, which causes serious illness in about one in five people. Though rare, bites from any type of wildlife need immediate medical attention,” says Zachary Goldman, MD, emergency medical director at Medical City ER Flower Mound and assistant emergency medical director at Medical City Lewisville. “At the park or in your own backyard, use bug repellents and watch your step outdoors.”
- Use repellents that contain DEET and reapply as directed.
- Wear long sleeves, pants, and shoes outdoors from dusk to dawn.
- Keep an auto-inject epi-pen in your first aid kit in case of allergic reactions.
- Call 911 immediately if anyone has sudden difficulty breathing or swelling around a bite or sting.
5. “Prevent playground burns by feeling the temperature of equipment first.”
“Even when it’s not that hot outside, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that plastic slides, swings, and surface material can become hot enough to burn a child’s skin. Children age two and under are the most sensitive,” says Dr. Thibodeau. “Prevent playground burns by feeling the temperature of equipment first, before you let children play.”
- Children should wear pants and shoes to prevent contact of bare skin with hot surfaces.
- Remove drawstrings from clothing that can catch on equipment.
- Check equipment for sharp points or edges to avoid.
- Supervise children at all times.
Enjoy a happy and safe summer. Should you need emergency services, Medical City Healthcare has 16 emergency locations with average wait times posted online to help you get the care you need fast. Visit FastERTX.com to find a fast HCA ER near you.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.