Be ready for summer health emergencies
For many people, summer is their favorite season. But for emergency room professionals, summer is also "trauma season."
It's estimated that ER visits increase by 15-27 percent between June and August.
However, there are ways to reduce your risk of landing in the ER this summer -- and steps you can take to be ready just in case.
Five common warm weather hazards
Falls: Falls are more common in summer, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It's especially true in colder climates like ours, when people aren't used to year-round outdoor activity. Think twice before getting up on a ladder to clean those gutters; wear a helmet and protective gear when biking or playing outdoor sports.
Sunburn: Beyond painful, a serious sunburn can increase your risk of skin damage, eye damage and melanoma. Forget the myth of a "healthy tan;" get in the habit of starting each day by using sunscreen.
Heat stroke: When we're exposed to prolonged high temperatures -- or engage in too much physical exertion -- our bodies are at risk of overheating. Don't overdo it. Fever, cramps, nausea and weakness are signs that you need immediate care.
Food poisoning: According to the USDA, foodborne illness peaks in summer. Bacteria multiply more quickly in the heat; safe food handling is trickier when cooking outdoors. Rule of thumb: avoid food that's been sitting out for more than one hour.
Car accidents: Did you know that July and August are the months with the most traffic fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration? Increased congestion, construction and teen drivers are all contributing factors, so be especially vigilant while traveling this summer.
How to prepare for summer mishaps
Pack a bag: One way to make sure you always have summer safety essentials on hand is to bring a "go bag" -- packed with sunscreen, insect repellent, a sun hat, first aid kit and bottled water -- on your daily adventures.
Another thing to carry everywhere: your insurance card. If you're taking maintenance medications, store it with a wallet-sized list of your prescriptions.
Pop quiz: Do you know what emergency room you'd head for should an accident happen close to home? If not, now's the time to identify it. (If you're enrolled in a PPO or HMO, it's to your advantage to research in-network hospitals.) Similarly, if you're traveling, do some advance research.
Finally, if you're not sure if immediate medical care is needed, it's always more prudent to err on the side of caution. Summer is a time to be more carefree … but not when it comes to health.
• Teri Dreher, RN, CCRN, iRNPA, BCPA, is an award-winning RN patient advocate and a pioneer in the growing field of private patient advocacy. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, today she is owner/founder of NShore Patient Advocates, the largest advocacy company in the Chicago area (www.northshorern.com). She was awarded her industry's highest honor, The APHA H. Kenneth Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award. She is among the first in her industry to earn the credential of Board Certified Patient Advocate. Her 2016 book, "Patient Advocacy Matters," is now in its second printing.