Summertime blues

Sunburn, mosquito bites, and fireworks all present dangerous hazards during the summer months.
Sunburn, mosquito bites, and fireworks all present dangerous hazards during the summer months.

Recently, I had an opportunity to observe a group of children playing together in a water park. I watched as several turned pink from 90 degree temperatures, and saw pale skin became red from the burning rays of the sun. It made me start thinking of the accidents you almost exclusively see or hear about during the summer months. Here are some of the things that I discovered.

Warm weather arrives, and so do the snakes. One of my biggest fears is getting a snake bite -- it's a fear of many, but although between 7,000 and 8,000 people are bit each year, but 5 will die from the bite. I found that reassuring in an odd sort of way.

Protecting yourself and your children from mosquito bites are important, since mosquitoes, which can spread Zika virus, West Nile, dengue, and malaria, are out in full force. Dengue fever alone will infect 390 million people per year, and is the leading cause of death in the tropics and subtropics. Since 1999, an estimated 700,000 people in the United States have become ill due to the West Nile virus. Zika virus is on the rise as well, and summer travel brings with it a risk of contracting the virus.

Boating accidents and drowning are also more common during the summer months. Drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury or death for people of all ages. It's important to note that it's also the second leading cause of injury or death for children aged 1 to 14.  In 2015, there were 4,158 boating accidents resulting in 626 deaths, or about 5.3 deaths per 100,000. Of these accidents, 76% resulted in death from drowning. Alcohol is the leading cause of fatal boating accidents.

Independence Day has come and gone, but fireworks continue to mesmerize children and adults alike. However, it's important to remember that fireworks cause injury. The National Safety Council estimated that 8 deaths and 11,400 injuries occurred during July 4th celebrations in 2013.

Our emergency rooms and offices will be filled again this year with adults and children who have succumbed to the effects of the sun. Heat stroke and sunburn are serious injuries that can cause death. Encourage your patients to use sunscreen and frequent breaks for rehydration and respites from the heat.

Summer can be a magical time but it can be a dangerous one! Wish your patients lots of fun, but remind them that there are hazards to avoid. No one wants to become a statistic!

Sharon M. O'Brien, MPAS, PA-C, is a practicing physician assistant and health coach in Asheville, NC.

References

  1. Venomous snakes [NIOSH]. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Education and Information Division. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed June 14, 2016. Updated July 1, 2016
  2. Avoid mosquito bites [CDC features]. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed June 14, 2016
  3. West Nile Virus [CDC features]. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed June 14, 2016
  4. Water-related injuries [Home and recreational safety]. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed June 14, 2016
  5. 2015 Recreational boating statistics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Homeland Security; United States Coast Guard. Published May 13, 2016. Accessed June 14, 2016.
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