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The top six reasons for summertime Emergency Department visits and how to avoid them

From swimming to cycling, there’s a plethora of fun outdoor activities to do during the summer. But with any outdoor activity, injuries can occur so it’s important to know how to prevent them so you can get the most out of your summer. We spoke with Osler Emergency Medicine Physician, Dr. Isabelle Imamedjian, about the most common injuries and illnesses seen in the Emergency Department (ED) this time of year and how you can minimize the risk for yourself and your loved ones.

Side by side photos of a sunny field and Dr. Isabelle Imamedjian, an Emergency Medicine Physician at Osler

1. Heat illnesses

It’s great to spend time outdoors but soaking up too much sun can have health implications. Heat exhaustion happens when the body is exposed to high temperatures and humidity for a prolonged period of time and overheats. If untreated, it can progress to heat stroke – which is a medical emergency. Heat stroke is potentially life-threatening because the body’s cooling system shuts down and is unable to produce sweat, one of the body’s main ways of reducing its temperature.

Recognizing heat exhaustion symptoms early is important because you can take action before you become seriously ill. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: feeling lightheaded, nauseous, thirsty, and weak, experiencing heat rashes, and more.

How can you protect yourself?

You can prevent heat illnesses by limiting the time you spend outside in the sun, making sure you are hydrated, and wearing sunscreen. If you start feeling ill, go inside or find a shady spot to sit. Drink lots of water and avoid consuming alcohol.

The same also goes for vehicles. Make sure windows are rolled down if there is no air conditioning running, and children and pets are not left unattended inside.

2. Motorcycle/bike accidents

When the warm weather rolls in, riding your bike or taking your motorcycle out for a spin sounds like a great way to spend a sunny day. However, with more people on the roads, accidents can occur.

How can you protect yourself?

Make sure to drive within the speed limit, don’t drive while under the influence and always wear a helmet and other protective gear. Wearing proper gear like helmets are important ways you can stay safe.

3. Fire pit/BBQ burns

Making s’mores on the campfire or cooking your favourite meal on the BBQ are summertime favourites. However, it’s important to remember to be safe around open flames.

How can you protect yourself?

Keep a safe distance from heat sources, be cautious with fire accelerants and wear fire-safe gloves to help prevent these injuries from happening in the first place. If you do get burned, the first thing you should do is run your skin under cool water right away and cover it with a wet towel or gauze. If the pain and burn is severe, seek treatment at the nearest emergency department.

4. Ticks

Ticks are common in Ontario. Blacklegged ticks specifically are carriers of Lyme disease. Lyme disease symptoms include a rash that looks like a bulls-eye, fever, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms. You should seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms after a tick bite.

If you do find a tick on your skin, it can be self-removed with tweezers but make sure to remove the whole tick.

How can you protect yourself?

If you go hiking in high-grass areas, wear long-sleeve shirts and pants and tuck them into your socks to prevent ticks from getting access to your skin. Wearing insect repellant that says “DEET” or “icaridin” on it helps too. When you get home, consider putting your clothes in the dryer to allow the heat to kill any ticks left on your clothes. Learn more about Lyme disease.

5. Swimming and boating accidents

When it comes to swimming and boating, there are some risks that come with spending time in or on the water.

How can you protect yourself?

Check the quality of the water before you go swimming and watch out for E. coli. Make sure a lifeguard is present and wear a lifejacket if you don’t know how to swim. You should always wear a lifejacket while boating. With both activities, do not consume any alcohol.

6. Sport/outdoor activity injuries

From cycling to rollerblading to running, injuries like fractures or concussions can happen.

How can you protect yourself?

Wearing proper sports equipment like helmets, knee and elbow pads, taking caution and being aware of your surroundings can help prevent these accidents.

If you experience a significant blow to the head and develop a severe headache, you may have a concussion. Concussion symptoms include amnesia, vomiting, severe headache, difficulty concentrating, and sensitivity to light and sound. If you suspect that you have a concussion, seek medical attention. Prolonged vomiting, loss of consciousness, inability to speak or any focal weakness may be a sign of a more serious injury and you should visit the ED if you experience any of these.

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