Summer Safety Digest: 13 Things You Need to Know for a Safe, Sane Season

LifeSigns-FB-2Yo, summer! You think you’re pretty hot here in North Texas, don’t you? Well, okay, you are … but we’ve got tips for how to chill and enjoy all you have to offer without ending up in the ER. Here’s a roundup of our best summer safety advice.

Top 3 Summer Safety Tips from an Emergency Medicine Physician.

Manisha Gupta, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Denton, gives her 3 top tips for sailing through summer safely and injury-free:

10 More Tips for Summer Safety.

There’s nothing quite like a top 10 list. In this case, we’re actually giving you 13, but who’s counting? All that really matters is that your family stays safe so you can stay sane.

Your comprehensive guide to mosquito-borne illnesses.

zika

Alison Wortman, MD, a maternal and fetal medicine physician with Medical City Alliance, discusses the signs and symptoms of Zika virus.

HCA Medical City Ask a Nurse Infographic_RevisedIf your summer plans get derailed by breaks, aches, bug bites or snakes, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

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Summer Camp Safety: What You Need to Know Before They Go

Summer-CampFBEvery year in the U.S., more than 14 million children and adults attend camp. The American Camp Association (ACA) counts 8,400 resident (overnight) camps and 5,600 day camps from which to choose. In addition to staples such as horseback riding, archery, swimming, hiking and crafting, camps are adding new programs to appeal to a wider audience. Some of these include gardening, college planning, health and wellness, community service and cooking.

From the most adventurous to the tamest, there’s one thing all camps have in common: illness and injuries. Nothing ruins a camp experience faster than a trip to the ER, so we’ll tell you how to keep your kids safe from the most common camp injuries and what they should do in a lightning storm.

Something in the food, water or my cabin mate made me sick.

Kids at camp (and the camp staff) are more than twice as likely to get sick than injured. Possible problems and helpful tips to avoid them include:

  • Gastroenteritis, food poisoning and other stomach pains from contaminated food or water
    • Have a discussion with kids about food safety, including washing hands before meals; eating raw or uncooked foods; sharing food; and eating from potentially contaminated sources such as salad bars
    • Teach kids not to swallow pool or lake water
  • Asthma and allergies
    • Make sure kids pack adequate amounts of medication, including epi-pens if needed
  • Infectious illnesses, such as colds, flu and even mumps and measles, which are making a comeback
    • Make sure kids are up to date on their vaccinations, including tetanus; get yours (and a physical for camp, if necessary) at one of 29 DFW CareNow locations
    • Teach kids to cough and sneeze properly and the correct way to wash their hands

 

Camp — it’s a trip.

According to the ACA, trips, slips and falls are the injuries most commonly reported at camp. In fact, sprains and strains make up nearly 30% of all camp injuries and are often related to rough terrain and improper footwear. Here’s how to protect your kids from fall and collision injuries, including broken bones and concussion:

Kids_Sack_Race-FB

Make sure your kids can swim like a fish.

If the camp you’ve selected offers recreational swimming — and 86% of them do — it’s imperative that children know how to swim and have a good grasp on water safety rules. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause for ages 5-14.

In addition to the obvious safety implications, most camps require kids to pass a swim test on the first day. Those who don’t pass must stay in designated areas designed for younger kids, which can be awkward and embarrassing for older children.

Packing over-the-counter ear drops and insisting that kids use them before and after swimming and showers can help keep moisture out of the ear canal and prevent swimmer’s ear.

When thunder roars, go indoors.

According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), there are an average of 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes during some 100,000 thunderstorms each year in the U.S. Lightning storms can happen anytime but are more frequent — and cause more deaths and injuries — in spring and summer. In fact, the Fourth of July is historically one of the most deadly times of year for lightning.

Here are some tips for weathering a lightning storm:

  • Teach your kids this rhyme: When thunder roars, go indoors. Even if they can’t see lightning, it can strike as far as 10 miles away from the storm
  • If your hair stands up, get inside quick: This could be a (very bad) sign that positive charges are rising through you, reaching toward the negatively charged storm — seek shelter immediately
  • Choose shelter wisely: The safest place is a building with plumbing and electricity because those provide a path for lightning to travel down to the ground. Stay away from windows and anything that conducts electricity, including landline telephones, which are the No. 1 way people get struck by lightning indoors. A car with a metal roof is also a safer place to be than outside (but don’t touch anything metal), near water, under a tree (No. 2 cause of lightning casualties) or in a building without plumbing or electricity
  • If you’re unavoidably caught outside: Don’t be, be near, or be under the tallest object — and ditch the umbrella!
  • When it’s safe, you can help someone who’s been struck by lightning: Unlike someone in contact with a telephone line or other live wire, a lightning victim is not electrified and may need immediate emergency medical treatment for cardiac arrest, burns or other injuries

HCA Medical City Ask a Nurse Infographic_Revised

If your child gets injured at camp, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

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How “13 Reasons Why” Can Be a Lesson for All Ages

Lonely-Man-FBThe controversial Netflix series about a teenage girl’s suicide, “13 Reasons Why,” has kids and parents everywhere talking. In our previous blog, Five Opportunities and Insights from “13 Reasons Why,” a Medical City Green Oaks adolescent psychiatrist discussed the show’s potential impact on teenagers. But there are other populations that are at even higher risk for suicide: older adults.

Medical experts at the Geriatric Behavioral Unit at Medical City North Hills are hoping the Selena Gomez-produced series, which has just been renewed for season two, will also bring attention to the disturbing rates of senior suicide.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that from 1999 to 2011, suicide rates among adults 45 to 64 years of age jumped 40 percent. Statistics show that this trend is continuing.

Suicide rates by age (per 100,000 individuals) from 2000 through 2015

  • 19.6 (45-64)
  • 19.4 (85 and older)
  • 17.1 (35-44)
  • 16.1 (65-84)
  • 15.5 (20-34)
  • 3 (Under 20)

“The sense of loss of control over one’s life, from financial circumstances or the pain and physical disability associated with chronic health problems, can contribute to depression, a key factor for suicidal thoughts in older adults,” said Paul Schneider, DO, medical director of the Geriatric Behavioral Unit at Medical City North Hills.

Texas ranks near the bottom — No. 41 — in number of deaths by suicide but even so, on average, one person dies by suicide every three hours in the state.

Other factors that influence senior suicide rates include:

  • Gender and age: Middle-aged white males have the highest suicide rate and accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2015 (men of all ages die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women)
  • A previous diagnosis of mental illness: This accounts for more than 90% of suicide deaths, regardless of age
  • Social isolation: Including from death of a spouse or divorce
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor sleep quality and having trouble falling asleep: These factors increased seniors’ risk of suicide by 1.2 times, according to a JAMA Psychiatry study

It’s vitally important for family members to take note of changes in sleeping or eating habits in elderly loved ones. Verbal remarks about ending a life should also be taken as a sign for intervention or assistance.

“Those comments should be taken seriously and professional mental health help should be sought immediately,” Dr. Schneider said.

The good news is, depression is not a normal part of aging, but a true and treatable medical condition. According to the CDC, the majority of older adults aren’t depressed and most who are can get relief from their symptoms with treatment.

Warning signs of suicide in the elderly.

If you see any of these warning signs in a spouse or loved one, seek immediate medical help.

  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities previously enjoyed
  • Decreased social interaction, self-care and grooming
  • Breaking medical regimens, including going off diets, refusing medications
  • Significant personal loss, such as the death or impending death of a loved one
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Putting affairs in order, giving away possessions, making changes to a will
  • Stockpiling medications or obtaining other lethal means (remove access to firearms; about half of all suicides are attributed to the use of firearms, according to the CDC)
  • Preoccupation with death or loss of regard for personal safety
  • Comments indicating finality, including “This is the last time you’ll see me,” or “I won’t be needing any more appointments”
  • Talking about or attempting suicide

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) provides free and confidential resources and support for people of all ages in distress or crisis.

For fast, emergency help in a crisis, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

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Five Opportunities and Insights from “13 Reasons Why”

Sad-Girl-FB“13 Reasons Why” is a Netflix series produced by Selena Gomez, a celebrity artist who has struggled with depression and anxiety for several years. Based on Jay Asher’s 2007 novel “Thirteen Reasons Why,” it tells the story of 17-year-old Hannah, who takes her own life and leaves behind a suicide note in the form of 13 cassette tapes. All 13 episodes became available March 31 and the controversial show is so popular that a second season has already been renewed by Netflix.

The show deals with some heavy topics in addition to suicide, including bullying, rape and other mature subjects. It has prompted schools to send warning letters home to parents with recommendations from the National Association of School Psychologists.

Suicide by the numbers.

Suicide:

  • Is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 34
  • Is attempted every day by an average of more than 5,240 children in grades 7 through 12
  • Is the cause of death for more teens and young adults than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease, combined
  • Was the reason for an average of 420,000 emergency room visits every year during the 16 years of an NCBI study (1993-2008)
    • ER attempts more than doubled from 244,000 in 1993-1996 to 538,000 in 2005-2008

Studies show that 90 percent of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness, so we asked Dr. Elizabeth Ucheoma-Cofield, a psychiatrist and the medical director for the adolescent unit at Medical City Green Oaks Hospital, for her thoughts on the show. As both a parent and an adolescent psychiatrist, she feels there are five pivotal points highlighted by “13 Reasons Why.”

Five opportunities and insights provided by the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why.”

Platform for Discussion: Mental illness is still taboo, especially in children and adolescents. “13 Reasons Why” provides the opportunity for parents, teachers, mental health providers and other adults to begin discussions involving depression, suicide and a variety of other topics that are pertinent to teens, including sexual assault and cyberbullying.

Asking for Help/Paying Attention: “13 Reasons Why” highlights the fact that teens in distress need to reach out for help sooner. There were many people in Hannah’s life who could have been very helpful resources for her in her time of distress, but she didn’t utilize them when needed. Conversely, the show is also a cautionary tale for parents regarding the slippery slope of depression and may serve as a catalyst for parents to start researching and paying attention to the warning signs of depression and suicidal thoughts in their children and providing them with professional help sooner.

Perception of Invincibility: Children and adolescents can be impulsive. Many completed suicide attempts in children and adolescents are actually the result of impulsive behavior. Children and teens sometimes do not have the perspective to be able to realize that present crises are temporary. Sometimes children and teens don’t really digest the fact that suicide is permanent and that they will no longer see their friends and family and will no longer have a future.

The main character in the series, Hannah, makes multiple cameo appearances (usually as flashbacks from one of the other characters who are the subjects of her tapes) almost as if she is not really dead. She also controls the actions of the people that she left behind through instructions that she has left on the tapes. This is a very dangerous representation of suicide that alludes to the fact that people who have completed suicide aren’t really gone but exist in some other form that enables them to interact in some way with the people they left behind. This perception of invincibility and lack of finality is actually a soft suggestion to children that suicide is merely an alternate life path and this is not the case.

Attention Seeking Through Suicide: “13 Reasons Why” highlights the fact that Hannah achieved the attention and validation that she didn’t get in life through her death. Many children and teens with depression already feel isolated and invisible. Arguably, the show could give impressionable kids the idea that suicide might be an option to get the same results that Hannah did.

Need to Process: Although “13 Reasons Why” does have a discussion panel at the end of the series to talk about the heavy subject matter presented, it would be much more beneficial for children and teens to have a panel discussion built in after every episode to process the topics discussed more pointedly and frequently.

Clearly, there are a variety of reasons that “13 Reasons Why” can be both adverse and beneficial. At the end of the day, it does help kids understand how important it is to be kind and respectful to others. It also might help them feel empowered to reach out to educators, counselors and other adults when they think that someone (child or adult) is struggling.

If you’d like to talk to your kids about the subjects highlighted in “13 Reasons Why” but aren’t sure where to begin, here are some resources:

The JED Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to prevent suicide in teens and young adults, has developed a series of talking points for children and adults.

The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide offers helpful information on how to know if suicide is a risk for your family.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) provides free and confidential resources and support for people of all ages in distress or crisis.

For fast, emergency help in a crisis, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

About Elizabeth Ucheoma-Cofield, MD dr-ucheoma-cofield-bio

Elizabeth Ucheoma-Cofield, MD (lovingly known as “Liz” by friends and family), is an avid reader and writer who enjoys spending time with her family, catching up on her fair share of reality TV and engaging in clothes and shoe shopping at frequent intervals. She loves to travel and visiting multiple countries on every continent is on her bucket list. Exercise is her passion and she is very much interested in holistic health (mind, body, and soul) for all of her patients. She truly believes that working with children is her calling and life’s work.

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When Insects Sting: How to Avoid Allergic Reactions

Stings-Wasp-FBIf you think Texas has it all, you’re right — including all five insects whose stings are known to cause allergic reactions: fire ants, honeybees, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets. Yay us.

It’s estimated that roughly 2 million Americans are allergic to the venom of stinging insects. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), it’s not uncommon to have a “normal” reaction the first few times and then experience increasingly severe reactions with each subsequent sting.

Types of reactions that can occur with insect stings:

  • A normal local reaction, which includes pain, swelling and redness at the sting site.
  • A large local reaction, which results in swelling that extends well beyond the sting site — such as a sting on your hand that causes your whole arm to swell. Swelling usually peaks several days after the sting and can last up to a week or more.
  • A systemic allergic reaction is a severe allergic reaction and requires immediate medical attention, such as calling 911 or going to the closest ER. Symptoms can include:
    • Hives
    • Itchy skin
    • Flushing
    • Swelling beyond the sting site
    • Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure
    • Hoarseness, swelling of the tongue or difficulty swallowing
    • Abdominal pain, vomiting, intense nausea or diarrhea
    • Fainting or cardiac arrest
  • Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that occurs when the body releases an overdose of allergen-fighting chemicals, sending the body into shock. It’s life-threatening and can worsen quickly. Additional symptoms can include:
    • Breathing problems
    • Constricted throat
    • Rapid heart beat
    • Feeling of doom

People who have a known or suspected allergy to insect stings should carry at least one self-injectable epinephrine pen at all times; the ACAAI recommends two for those who have had a possible systemic reaction.

Gan Su, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Arlington, discusses signs that an allergic reaction should send you to the ER.

When the bee stings.

Texas Parks and Wildlife offers these tips for treating normal (mild) sting reactions:

  • Remove the stinger
  • Wash sting site with soap and water
  • Cover and keep clean
  • Apply cold pack for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce swelling
  • Administer over-the-counter pain relievers and cortisone/anti-itch cream
  • Mild allergic reactions can be treated with antihistamines (Benadryl)

It’s important to act fast if someone who may be allergic has been stung.

“Allergic reactions can come on suddenly and without much warning,” said Scott Corcoran, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City McKinney. “Whether it’s from a bee sting, an ant bite, a peanut or even a strawberry, various things can cause allergic reactions that can be quite serious. Symptoms can include a rash, such as hives, nausea and vomiting, swelling of the eyes, mouth and throat and eventually, the airway closes off. If any of those symptoms are present, patients need to come to the ER right away.”

How to avoid stinging pests and their nests.

Follow the ACAAI’s helpful tips for avoiding insect stings:

Stings-Bee-FB

  • An open soda can is like bait to a flying stinger — keep sugary drinks covered or better yet, drink water!
  • Same goes for food — keep it covered
  • DO wear
    • Close-toed shoes when walking in grass or brush; this is where stinging insects forage
    • Long pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks and gloves for working outside
  • DO NOT wear
    • Sweet-smelling perfumes, hair products, deodorants, etc.
    • Bright-colored clothing or flowery patterns
  • Be extra cautious near bushes, eaves, trash cans, picnic areas and in attics
  • Call a professional exterminator to inspect for and remove pests and their nests

If someone in your family has an allergic reaction, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

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