Summer Safety: Vacation, Heat-Related Illness and Children
In this Fox 8 House Call series, Cone Health experts explore ways to stay safe this summer, including:
Staying Safe on Summer Vacation
Summer vacation season is just beginning and it’s important to keep a few simple safety tips in mind while you travel to help you and your family avoid some common pitfalls. Water safety is important no matter where you are but can be especially important when you’re visiting somewhere new.
- Even if your children are confident swimmers, accidents can happen, which is why you should always supervise them around water and stay within arms-reach.
- Staying hydrated is also important, but you want to make sure you’re drinking clean, filtered water – not water from streams, lakes or pools.
- If kids are still in diapers, you want to make sure that they have appropriate swimwear that will help avoid any accidents.
Bug bites can also be quite the nuisance if you’re out camping or hiking, and in some cases, quite dangerous. Tick bites, in particular, can cause serious health conditions such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. To prevent tick bites, wear long sleeves and pants and remember to use bug repellant when spending time outdoors. Do a skin check after you’ve been outdoors and remove any ticks you find. If you are concerned about a tick bite, make an appointment with your physician, visit an urgent care or see a provider from anywhere with our virtual care options.
If your travel plans include road trips, try schedule a break every two hours or so. Stop, use the restroom, stretch your legs and rehydrate before you get back on the road. It’s easy to become dehydrated on a long trip and, by stretching your legs, you’ll reduce your risk of developing a blood clot from sitting for so long. It’s also a good idea to pack a travel safety kit in your car. You can start with a basic first aid kit that includes a topical cream in case of rash, disinfectant, and an ice pack. If you have allergies, make sure you pack a new EpiPen. Since you’ll be in the car, it may also help to have road flares and jumper cables on hand just in case.
If anything does happen, don’t wait to see your primary care physician. You can get instant advice through Cone Health Connected Care (phone or video visits) from anywhere you are traveling. If you need to see a provider in-person, find a local emergency department or urgent care, depending on your needs. In many situations, it’s better to find help and get checked out sooner rather than wait and hope you feel better the next day.
Dr. Zoe Stallings is a family medicine physician with Primary Care at Pomona and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.
Preventing Heat-Related Injuries
Heat-related illnesses occur when your body temperature rises above normal but is unable to cool itself. While they are especially prevalent during the hot, summer months, they can happen at any time of year, especially during spring and fall when the weather is changing and we aren’t expecting it. Types of heat-related illnesses can vary in severity, but may include:
- Heat Edema – swelling of hands and feet.
- Heat Syncope – temporary loss of consciousness due to dehydration.
- Heat Cramps – painful contractions, commonly felt in the calves, thighs or shoulders, that occur as the body loses salt and water from exercise.
- Heat Exhaustion – is brought on by a loss of water and electrolytes. The body will begin to sweat excessively and the core body temperature will elevate to more than 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but less than 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat Stroke – the core body temperature is elevated to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit and confusion or an altered mental status may occur.
Heat-related illness can be very serious, progress from one type to another very quickly, and in some instances, lead to death. If someone is exhibiting symptoms of an illness, it’s important to call 911 and get them out of the heat as soon as possible. The longer treatment is delayed, the more long-term damage heat stroke can do. Medical professionals on site may use ice packs or cold-water immersion to cool the body quickly before taking them to the hospital for further treatment.
Fortunately, these are preventable illnesses. During the summer heat, take plenty of breaks to cool off, avoid constrictive clothing and keep hydrated with water and electrolytes if you’ll be outside for more than an hour. Both the temperature and humidity contribute to the overall heat of the day, and you should avoid exercising on days where the heat index is high. If you are sick, have a chronic medical condition, take stimulant medication or aren’t acclimated to the heat of a new environment, you may have a higher risk of developing heat-related illnesses. Individuals who have experienced symptoms of heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke should always be evaluated by a medical professional to establish proper treatment needs and whether it is safe to return to normal activity.
Dr. Michael Rigby is a family and sports medicine specialist at LeBauer HealthCare at Horse Pen Creek and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.
Kids + Summer Fun
Summer vacation can mean a time of fun outside and out of school, but it can also mean a few extra health precautions parents should be aware of this season. Biking is a great activity for kids that gets them outdoors and active, but it should be practiced safely, including:
- Wear a helmet – The best way to prevent injury is to make sure each child wears a properly fitted helmet any time they ride.
- Use signals – Bicyclists can use hand signals to communicate with others on the road as they ride. Learn the signals before you ride.
- Ride with an adult – young riders should ride with an adult.
- Be attentive – children that ride on the sidewalk should learn to watch for vehicles backing out of driveways and how to handle hazards that they encounter. Avoid listening to music while you ride since it can make it harder to hear traffic and detect dangerous situations before they happen.
- Don’t ride at night or in the rain – Children shouldn’t ride in conditions that make the road more dangerous or that make it harder to see, such as at night or in the rain. If you do ride in these conditions, always wear reflectors, bright colors or use lights to make you more noticeable.
A popular part of summer is swimming, whether it’s in a pool, lake, river or the ocean. Swimming in open water like that of a lake or the ocean can be more difficult for a number of reasons:
- There is limited visibility in open water compared to a pool, and hazards like rocks and logs can hide nearby. Low visibility can also make it difficult to see if a child falls in the water or is having trouble.
- Sudden drop-offs are also common and it’s hard to know how deep an area of water is compared to another.
- Currents and tides can make swimming difficult for adults and can be an even greater hazard for children.
- Open water can be colder than that of a pool and can shock you if you aren’t prepared for it. If you’ll be swimming in cold water, dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.
- Pay attention to the weather while you’re out and stay out of the water if you see lightning or hear thunder.
If you will be swimming in open water, look for designated swim areas that are supervised by a lifeguard. Even if your children are strong swimmers, it’s important to have a designated supervisor anytime kids are swimming.
Unfortunately, heat-related illness is also common in summertime. Hot cars can be especially dangerous for children and can lead to heatstroke and even death. On average, a child dies every ten days from heatstroke in a vehicle. Never leave a child alone in a car, even for a minute. Cars can heat up very quickly and leaving a window cracked isn’t enough to keep the interior cool. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.
Leigha Jordan is the injury prevention coordinator for the trauma department at Cone Health.