By Dr. Stephen Flaherty and Julia Perez
Summer is almost here, and while you’re preparing to enjoy time outdoors or planning your family vacation, emergency room physicians are preparing for “trauma season” – a seasonal increase in emergency room visits and severe injuries typically seen during summertime.
According to the National Injury Prevention Foundation, traumatic injury is a leading cause of death and disability among children, teens and adults. When you combine an increased number of active people with extreme temperatures, the opportunity for an accident or injury surges.
Medical experts at the Level II Trauma Center at Del Sol Medical Center suggest taking proper precautions to avoid winding up in the emergency room.
It’s important to stay alert when your loved ones, especially children, are playing in or around water. If you’re with a big group of people, having a “buddy system” in place is an easy way to determine if someone is missing.
If you notice someone drowning, quick attention is critical. The first thing to remember is that you should not risk your own life if it’s too dangerous. Instead, call 911 immediately. If you notice someone isn’t breathing, begin performing hands-only CPR after you call 911, which consists of pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest.
Extreme heat is commonplace in the Borderland. If you’re planning an outdoor activity, try to schedule it during the early morning or late afternoon. Always seek shade when you can, and wear clothing that is breathable and lightweight.
Staying hydrated is also key to surviving extreme heat. Your body naturally burns through hydration quicker in hot weather, so drinking fluids, specifically water, is the best and most effective way to stay hydrated.
Head injuries and helmet use
A head injury is classified as any trauma that leads to injury of the scalp, skull or brain.
There are two types of head injuries – open-head and closed-head injuries. An open-head injury is one in which an object penetrates the skull. This type of injury is usually more severe. Closed-head injuries, which occur internally, are commonly seen in children in the emergency room.
These types of injuries can often be avoided by wearing a properly fitted helmet when engaging in outdoor activities, such as skating, skateboarding and biking. However, when a helmet is loose, not buckled correctly or too high on the forehead, it is of little to no use.
Falls and older people
Each year, one in four older adults will experience a fall.
Although falls can happen year-round, summer brings its own set of hazards. Excessive heat can lead to dehydration and dizziness, which can cause a loss of balance – and, ultimately, a fall.
Additionally, while swimming is a great exercise and a way to keep cool, the surfaces around pools can be slippery. Gardening can also lead to tripping over a hose, falling off a ladder or a back injury from moving heavy planters.
You can help prevent falls by staying hydrated and being aware of potentially slippery areas and obstacles. Additionally, making simple changes inside your home, such as not allowing electrical cords to stretch across pathways, leaving a light on at night or simply being mindful of raised thresholds in your house, can have a significant impact.
Remember, your actions not only impact your safety, but the safety of others.
Dr. Stephen Flaherty is trauma medical director at Del Sol Medical Center, and Julia Perez is director of trauma services at Del Sol Medical Center.