Your Questions Answered – Keeping Summer Safe and Healthy
Aug. 30, 2022 — In this column, PeaceHealth experts address current health issues and topics impacting our amazing Florence community. We hope you find it informative. If you have any suggestions for topics, please send them to Dr. Foster at [email protected].
We are in the midst of another lovely summer on the coast and all the pleasures that come with it — traveling, the outdoors and fun activities in the sunshine.
As an emergency medicine doctor at PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center, I’d like to share a few tips to make sure your adventures continue to be fun and safe and to avoid any trips to the emergency room.
ATVs are a common sight out here on the coast and while they are a lot of fun, they need to be ridden with respect. Always remember to wear a helmet. We can fix most broken bones, but a serious blow to the head is a different story and can result in devastating injuries.
It goes without saying that alcohol and driving don’t mix, yet alcohol is a contributing factor in many of the ATV injuries we see in our emergency department.
My last bit of advice regarding ATVs is to slow down until you know the terrain you are driving on. Many of the accidents involving ATVs were a result of someone going off an abrupt edge they did not see coming.
Whether it’s in the ocean, lake or river, boating and swimming can fill many hours of our summer days. We need to remember this is Oregon, not Hawaii, and the water here is cold and can very quickly sap the strength of even a strong swimmer.
Remember to always use the buddy system of swimming with a friend. Life jackets are a must for all boating activities.
While the summer heat here on the coast is not like in Arizona, it can still get warm enough to lead to a person becoming dehydrated. It is important to stay well hydrated when you’re having fun outside in the sun. While soda and beer are liquids, they are not good ones for keeping your fluid and electrolyte balance where it should be.
And it is important to consistently hydrate and not just wait until you are super thirsty to gulp down a couple glasses of water.
Insects and Poison Oak
Insect bites and stings are much more common in the summer. Most often they are just a minor inconvenience, but some people face the danger of an anaphylactic reaction, where swelling limits their ability to breathe. For such people, carrying an EpiPen and knowing how to use it can be lifesaving.
In general, in the first 24 hours after a bite or sting, pain, redness and swelling at the site is most likely to be a local reaction and can be treated with Benadryl. However, increasing pain, redness and swelling over 24 to 48 hours can be due to infection and may need antibiotics.
Poison oak is always a concern, even if you are staying on the trail. Learn to be able to identify poison oak and avoid it. When I was a Boy Scout, we learned the following: “leaflets three — let it be.”
Campfires are a summertime fixture and a great way to end a day on the coast. Just remember to keep small children, and adults who have had a few drinks, away from the fire and keep your hands off grills.
Keep a First Aid Kit Handy
Cuts and scrapes (from rocks and sticks and knives and axes and who knows what else) seem to present to the emergency department on a daily basis. It is always a good idea to have a first aid kit with some basic dressings, paper tape and bandages.
Clean water is fine to use to clean a wound — you don’t really need to use alcohol or Betadine or any other item. Everyone should consider having a tourniquet in their first aid kit and knowing when and how to use it.
As an emergency department doctor, I have one of the few jobs where I can honestly say I hope I never see you. But rest assured, if the need ever arises and you end up in Peace Harbor’s emergency department, you will be taken well care of and hopefully back outside to enjoy the rest of your summer.