The Emergency Department is no place to spend any part of your summer. But every year, it’s a very busy place. According to Ronald Strony, M.D., director of emergency medicine, northeast division, Geisinger Health System, summer emergencies fall into five main categories: food poisoning, grilling accidents, water safety, sun and heat overexposure, and travel-related issues.
“It’s only natural that people want to get outside and celebrate,” said Dr. Strony. “And as long as they’re smart about it, that’s exactly what they should be doing.”
Many people celebrate the warm weather with a picnic or a barbecue, but food poisoning is a bad way to end your summer weekend.
- Refrigerate all perishable food within 2 hours — and within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90° F.
- Keep uncooked meats separate from other foods.
- Cook fresh poultry to 165° F, hamburgers to 160° F and beef to at least 145° F.
“Your summer cookout might be the first time your grill gets used after a long, cold winter,” says Dr. Strony. “Grills should be thoroughly cleaned before use, and any leftover grease or dust needs to be eliminated.”
He also advises that anyone using a gas grill should check the tubes leading into the burner for blockages from insects or food grease that might cause an uncontrolled fire.
“Replace any faulty connectors to avoid a gas leak, and keep lighted cigarettes, matches and open flames away from the grill,” he adds.
It’s important that a grill has adequate ventilation, so never use one in a garage, breezeway, carport or enclosed porch. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions that come with the grill.
“Drowning is a danger throughout the summer,” says Dr. Strony. “I urge everyone to avoid alcohol when swimming or boating and to wear a lifejacket whenever they are out on the water.”
Supervise young children around water, whether they are at the beach, on a boat or near a pool or a hot tub.
“And everyone needs to get out of the water when there is a storm in the area,” he says. “Lightning strikes are rare, but they are potentially deadly.”
Sunburn and heat stroke are two dangers associated with sunny weather. But the good news is that it’s easy to protect yourself.
- Wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher — and remember to reapply it throughout the day.
- Wear a hat outdoors, as well as a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially if you’re in the sun or sweating heavily.
- If you feel faint or nauseated, get to a cool place immediately.
“Summer is the time for long road trips,” Dr. Strony says. “And people often take to the road for summer holidays such as July 4 and Labor Day.”
He cautions drivers to make sure their vehicles have been properly serviced and are in good working shape if they’re planning a road trip.
“Wear your seat belt at all times and avoid talking on a cell phone or texting while driving,” he warns. He points out that if you are staying in an unfamiliar place, it is a good idea to know where the nearest hospital is just in case. “It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry,” he says.
And of course, it should go without saying that no one should ever drink and drive or ride in a car if the driver has been drinking.
With some common sense and careful planning, summer can be a lot of fun. Stay safe!