During the spring and summer, families take advantage of longer days and warmer temperatures to enjoy fun-filled outdoor activities like hiking, sports, bike riding, swimming, gardening, picnics and barbecues. But as they say, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
We asked family physician and medical director for Lancaster General Health Urgent Care Dr. Vito DiCamillo for advice on dealing with common summertime illnesses and injuries.
During the summer, what most often brings patients to medical facilities?
When people are more active outdoors, we see an increase in falls that result in broken bones, sprained ankles, cuts and scrapes. Insect bites, bee stings, poison ivy, sunburn and dehydration are also common.
Are there simple ways to prevent, or at least reduce the severity of common injuries?
- Use proper protective gear. Wear a helmet when riding a bike or scooter to avoid head injuries. If you rollerblade or skateboard, knee pads and wrist guards can help you avoid cuts and sprains.
- When swimming, look before you leap into any shallow body of water to avoid potentially serious injuries.
- When gardening, take your cue from the professionals who cover themselves head to toe. Gloves, eye and ear protection can safeguard against injuries and hearing loss, while a hat and long sleeves will help prevent sunburn, insect bites and poison ivy.
Speaking of sunburn, what is important to know?
Most importantly, always wear sunscreen (SPF 30 or above) and reapply after swimming or heavy sweating. And don’t be fooled by overcast skies—even when the sun is hiding behind clouds, you can get a serious burn. Special care is needed to keep babies safe in the summer sun.
If you do experience a burn, place a cool washcloth on the affected area, take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen, and use a topical antibiotic ointment. Don’t put butter on the burn.
If the burn is significant, seek medical attention and check your tetanus vaccination status. Any puncture, laceration or burn that breaks the skin puts you at risk for tetanus. Shots typically last 10 years; five if the wound is very contaminated. You have a 72-hour window of time to get a shot after exposure.
What is the best way to treat an insect bite?
The best advice is to try to prevent mosquito and other insect bites before they occur. Use insect repellent spray and cover up with long sleeves and pants during dusk and dawn.
If you do experience a bite, treat it with Benadryl®, hydrocortisone cream (1% strength), calamine lotion and an anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as ibuprofen. All are available over-the-counter. Stock your first aid kits now and be prepared.
To protect yourself from tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, wear light colored clothing when hiking, and when you get home, ask another person to check your back and scalp for ticks. Often, ticks enter the home by hitching a ride on the family pet, so remember to check your dog or cat if they have been outdoors.
What about bee stings?
If you are stung by a bumblebee, wasp, or yellow jacket, try to flick off the stinger with a credit card (not tweezers). Then take Benadryl®, ice the sting, and elevate the area of your body where the sting occurred.
Always watch for any signs of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition: shortness of breath, tongue swelling, dizziness, vomiting, headache and diarrhea. If you have an EpiPen, use it, or call 911.
Never assume you won’t have an allergic reaction to a bee sting, even if you haven’t in the past.
What are the signs of dehydration and how can it be prevented?
Staying hydrated is always important, especially during the hot summer months. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you are active.
Signs of dehydration include exhaustion, decreased sweating and urination, dry mouth, dizziness, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. A combination of half water/half sports drink, taken in small, frequent sips (not gulped), can help you rehydrate. It’s always important to seek medical attention if symptoms are severe.
Where is the best place to seek treatment?
While Urgent Care is convenient for treating a routine illness or injury, always call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room in the event of a serious head or neck injury, chest pain, signs of stroke, third-degree burn or traumatic injury.