In the coming weeks, many people will be in search of the summer fun that was put on hold last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some will get on airplanes and take off for their favorite summer destinations, while others will head to the pool, lake or the beach closer to home. No matter where you go, it’s important to always be cognizant of your surroundings to make sure a good time does not turn into a tragedy. Over the last year, the Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center has seen a significant increase in trauma injuries, and that trend has shown no signs of slowing down. In order to possibly reverse this trend and help adults and children enjoy their summer, experts affiliated with Memorial Hermann, are offering the following tips for a safe summer.
- Get your COVID-19 Vaccine
Millions of Americans have received a COVID-19 vaccine and that has played a significant role in the decline in COVID-19 cases throughout the Houston area and the rest of the country. The hope is that even more people will receive their vaccinations in the coming months now that individuals 12 years of age and older can receive a shot.
“As many resume travel and gatherings with friends and families, it’s important to consider becoming vaccinated in order to reduce your chances of becoming severely sick,” said Dr. Salil Bhandari, an emergency medicine physician affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that it is not necessary for fully vaccinated individuals to wear a mask in most indoor and outdoor settings. Bhandari, however, says it still may be wise to do so if you are not sure who is vaccinated in your group. To register for a vaccine or find out more information, visit the Memorial Hermann website.
- Hot days can turn deadly
If you spend any amount of time working or playing outside during the summer you may be at risk for heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.
Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse. These two symptoms alert you that your body is overheating. Heat stroke, however, is much more serious. It occurs when your body temperature is greater than 104 degrees, and you begin to become confused. Other symptoms include red skin, headache, and dizziness. If you experience these symptoms, get to an emergency room as quickly as possible. If left untreated, you open yourself up to brain, kidney, heart and/or muscle damage.
In order to avoid these two conditions, experts say it’s important to wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, limit your time outside during the day, especially between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., the hottest part of the day and stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and refrain from drinking alcohol. If you have to be outside for extended periods of time, it’s important to find a cool area, either in the shade or indoors, and take frequent breaks. It’s also extremely important to make sure you never leave a child or animal in a vehicle for any period of time.
“Children can overheat nearly four times faster than adults,” said Bhandari, who is also assistant professor of emergency medicine at the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Practice the ‘look before you lock’ strategy to ensure you are not forgetting anyone in the vehicle.”
- Snakes, insects and mosquitoes
Summer is a time when snakes, spiders and other animals love to hang out in places where you cannot see them and attack you if you bother them.
“If you encounter a venomous animal, do not try to trap it yourself. Handling snakes or other venomous animals is a recipe for disaster,” Bhandari said. “Heavy rainstorms and flooding can contribute to snakes being displaced from their natural homes. So stay alert the next time you’re out walking after a rainstorm.”
Summertime is also prime time for mosquitoes. The American Mosquito Control Association says standing water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, so it’s important remove all standing water in buckets and other containers from around your home. While this is important, the AMCA adds that wearing mosquito repellent containing N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (DEET) will give you the best protection against mosquitoes. It will also help to wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants during peak mosquito activity periods.
“The Zika Virus and West Nile Virus are still prevalent,” Bhandari said. “There are no vaccines for Zika or West Nile and both of these viruses can be passed on from a pregnant mother to her child, so when outside in the summer always apply mosquito repellent to protect yourself.”
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
Excessive use of alcohol is unwise any time of year; however, physicians see an increase in negative consequences in the summer when people are gathering with friends at the beach, the lake, the pool or throwing a barbecue in the backyard. Bhandari says having one too many can lead to many harmful health conditions such as motor vehicle collisions, falls, drownings, burns from cooking and/or using fireworks.
“If engaging in popular summertime activities such as grilling, boating or swimming, it’s important to watch your alcohol intake to reduce your risk of injury,” Bhandari said. “Designated drivers or utilizing ride share or alternative transportation can reduce your chance of getting injured or causing injuries for someone else,” Bhandari added.
For more information about Memorial Hermann Emergency Services visit http://www.memorialhermann.org/emergency/.