WESTFIELD NJ — The Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad is back with another round of tips on how to steer clear of the emergency room this summer.
“As with any season, there are always reasons to stay mindful of the dangers that are present in any outdoor or indoor activity,” WVRS member David Sloan said. “Summer is most notable for the amount of outdoor activities people participate in, so hopefully these safety tips will keep you enjoying the summer fun and away from the emergency room.”
Two of the main health issues of the summer include dehydration and heatstroke, Sloan said. Both health concerns are prevalent in hot, summer weather and can be averted by drinking enough water, preferably with some electrolytes, and keeping cool while enjoying the outdoors.
“Dehydration can happen before increased thirst and dry mouth set in,” he explained. “Advanced symptoms include weakness, confusion, dizziness, fainting and even seizure and kidney failure. Heatstroke symptoms are most pronounced when the skin becomes red and hot. It involves a lack of sweating and includes a change in someone’s mental state. Heatstroke usually starts off as heat exhaustion, which displays a weak pulse, cool, moist skin and muscle cramping as the primary symptoms.”
If someone is experiencing the onset of these symptoms, move them to a cool area, lie them down, provide fluids, and place ice packs on the neck, armpit or groin area, he said. When symptoms persist, contact 911.
Sunburns are exceedingly prevalent in the summertime, he noted. And even though the sun has some major health benefits (e.g. vitamin D), it needs to be provided in appropriate doses so as not to cause extensive burns.
Most sunburns are first degree burns and can be treated with aloe and cold compresses, he said, but some can become second degree or even third degree burns. If the burn blisters and the area is lacking in sensation, seek medical attention to treat and cover the wound so infection doesn’t become a problem.
The best advice is to avoid strenuous physical activity during the sun’s peak times, which are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., he said.
“It may seem prudent to lather the skin in sunscreen if outdoors for prolonged periods, but studies are starting to show how toxic sunscreen agents get absorbed into multiple tissues within the body and can cause cancer, so it’s probably best to limit your use of sunscreen or use natural sunscreens with zinc and titanium minerals instead of harsh chemicals,” Sloan advised. “Some even supplement natural sunscreen with coconut oil to increase sun protection and hydrate the skin.”
Two of the biggest scares of the summer can be seeing someone have an allergic reaction or asthma attack.
“Both situations require prescription medicine and can be life-savers to those in need,” Sloan said. “For the summer months, an allergic reaction, such as hives, itchines, or trouble breathing, can be common with bee stings.”
Anyone who is highly allergic to bee stings will have to carry around an epinephrine injection, called an epi-pen, which supplies a boost of adrenaline to open the airway in the lungs and narrows blood vessels to reverse the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, Sloan said. If an epi-pen is not available, then Benadryl can help stave off the symptoms until the person can get to the emergency room.
“Asthma can be a year-round problem, but can persist more so in the summer because of the increase in air pollution and high pollen counts,” Sloan said. “Mold is also a concern in areas of high humidity.”
People with asthma are advised to stay indoors until the air temperature and quality improves. In severe cases of shortness of breath, asthma sufferers should seek emergency medical attention, he said.
One of the most popular summer activities is swimming, and one cannot be too careful when swimming, as drowning is a major cause of death for young children, Sloan noted.
“Please be especially vigilant in swimming pools where children who cannot swim get caught unsuspectingly in the deep end without realizing it,” he said. “Also, swimming pools are notorious for not being deep enough for diving, yet many still practice this activity in unsafe conditions. Diving into a pool or water source that is less than nine feet deep can result in serious injury to the head, neck or back.”
He recommended practicing diving skills in an area of the pool designated for such activity.
“Any kind of trauma to the head, even minor concussions, can have life-threatening consequences,” he said.
Signs of head trauma include irritability, confusion, nausea/vomiting, fatigue/drowsiness, headache and lightheadedness.
“Lastly, be careful what you eat,” Sloan said. “Many people picnic or barbecue during the summer, and food left out for too long can spoil and cause food poisoning. Those with a weaker immune system, like the elderly and young children, are the worst affected compared to others.”
Food poisoning can happen when food requiring refrigeration such as meats, mayonnaise and eggs are left out for more than two hours, or one hour in temperatures over 90 degrees, he said. Symptoms of food poisoning can cause loss of water and electrolytes, which, in turn, causes dehydration that puts stress on the kidneys, heart and muscles. To prevent food poisoning, keep perishable food covered and on ice when possible, he said.
“With all of these safety tips in mind, it is essential to enjoy your summer,” Sloan said. “Awareness of the dangers of summer allows us all to prevent them or be ready in case of an emergency. We can all be safety supporters and stop danger in its track. Have a fantastic summer, fellow safety supporters.”
Editor’s note: The Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad provides free emergency medical services and transportation to hospitals 24/7. To learn more about the squad and to donate, click here.