Some Cool Advice for Hot-Weather Days

Summer is the time for outdoor fun—but it's also the time when seasonally related accidents and injuries increase visits to emergency rooms by an estimated 20 percent.

Safety First

Top on the list of concerns for emergency room staff members are accidents involving drowning or near-drowning. "In summer, children drown at nearly double the rate that's typical for the rest of the year, usually in residential swimming pools," says Robert Realmuto, M.D., chairman of emergency medicine and vice chief of staff at Orange Coast Medical Center. Most of these incidents occur while adults are nearby, but temporarily distracted. Preventing these tragedies requires the focused, uninterrupted supervision of adults when children are in or near the water, as well as the installation of pool fences that have self-lock gates.

“Sunburns can also pose a serious health concern," says Dr. Realmuto. "In fact, severe cases can cause second-degree burns that involve blistering and extreme swelling.”

When these symptoms are combined with intense pain, nausea or fever, people should seek immediate medical attention. To prevent sunburn, limit sun exposure, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15.

Staying Cool

Heat exhaustion is another summer concern. The condition usually occurs after prolonged exposure to heat, sometimes coupled with vigorous exercise. The symptoms include sweating, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, dizziness and pale skin. "People suffering from heat exhaustion should be placed in a cool, shaded area and given water to drink and cool compresses on their skin. With rest, fluids and cooling, heat exhaustion isn't life threatening. But if it's allowed to continue without treatment, it can transition into heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition signaled by a high body temperature and absence of sweating. Heat stroke demands emergency medical attention," says Dr. Realmuto.

Burns from fireworks and grills also send thousands of people to emergency rooms each year. "Fireworks typically cause serious injuries to the hands, head and eyes," says Dr. Realmuto. "Even handheld sparklers can reach temperatures above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit."The best advice? Leave fireworks to the pros. When grilling outdoors, make sure children are closely supervised, use the proper starter fluid and never add this highly flammable material when coals or kindling are already hot. Keep these tips in mind—and have a safe, enjoyable summer!