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updated: 6/24/2013 8:15 PM

Advocate Good Shepherd doctor offers tips on when should you visit the ER

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  • Joseph Giangrasso, MD

    Joseph Giangrasso, MD

Joseph Giangrasso, MD

As people become more active in the summer, the emergency room does as well. With all the outdoor activities and sports there are bound to be a few scrapes and bruises, but do you know when to put down the first aid kit and head to the emergency room? Here are some tips on detecting some of the most common injuries that require immediate medical attention.

Falling consistently tops the list of summer injuries, which can result in broken bones or stitches, both of which can cost a trip to the emergency room. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether you've sprained or broken a limb, it's always best to err on the side of caution. You can always call your family doctor for his or her suggestion. Here are some good indicators that your broken bone may require a trip to the ER:

• You're in extreme pain

• The limb is drastically misshapen or out of place

• The limb is swelling and bruising

• You have difficulty moving or bearing any weight on the limb

Cuts requiring stitches are also another common injury. Falling off your bike or cutting up fixings for the grill could all cause a trip to the ER for stitches. Here are some signs your wound may need to be stitched up:

• If you've applied pressure to the wound for 10 to 20 minutes and the bleeding has not stopped.

• If the cut is gaping open, or you cannot easily close the wound.

• If the cut is deep enough to see subcutaneous tissue or yellowish fatty tissue.

Once summer comes around, people will be breaking out the bonfire pits and grills. So it's no surprise that burns are consistently reported as one of the top 5 summer injuries. While most minor burns can be handled at home by simply running the burn under cold water and applying a topical burn ointment, others require immediate medical assistance. Here are some signs your burn will require a trip to the ER:

• If the burn covers an area larger than 2 or 3 inches, or goes around an entire area like your wrist.

• If it is blackened

• If it breaks the outer layer of skin

• If it causes numbness.

With the people spending more time outdoors in the summer heat, dehydration is another thing to look out for. Mild dehydration can be taken care of by drinking more liquids, but more severe forms will require a trip to the hospital. Older adults and children should be treated more cautiously. Here are some symptoms of severe dehydration:

• If they develop severe diarrhea with or without vomiting or fever

• If they can't keep fluids down

• If they are irritable or disorientated and much sleepier or less active than usual.

Accidents can happen even when you've taken precautions. And with some injuries, a first aid kit can only go so far. Make sure you can identify a serious injury!

Dr. Joseph Giangrasso is board certified and specializes in emergency medicine at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital. He studied at the University of Bologna, Italy, and completed his residency at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.