May 20, 2004
Physician urges Mississippians to 'think first' during summer trauma season
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Physicians at Methodist Rehabilitation Center are urging parents and children to think first about safety and injury prevention, especially during the summer months.
“The period between May and August is known as the trauma season because of the increased number of injuries that occur,” said said Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehab. “Traumatic injuries peak during the summer months when children are out of school and aren’t supervised as much.”
Lauren Fairburn, coordinator of Think First, Methodist Rehab’s statewide injury prevention program, encourages parents to never leave a child unattended in or around water.
“Always check the water for a minimum depth of ten feet before diving or jumping in and be aware of no diving or no swimming signs”, said Fairburn. “If there is a no diving sign it means the water is not safe for a head first entry. Check the water for hidden rocks before entering the water feet first.”
Dr. Vohra says that preventing serious sunburns and protecting skin from too much exposure to the sun is important in preventing skin cancer.
“Sunburns age skin and can cause cancer,” said Dr. Vohra. “Always wear sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 and try to stay out of the sun when sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.”
Fairburn recommends avoiding sun exposure and dressing infants under 6 months in lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts and brimmed hats to prevent sunburn.
“If ample clothing and shade are not available, apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to small areas, such as the infant's face and the back of the hands”, adds Fairburn.
Dr. Vohra says there are other safety concerns to consider during the summer such as limiting exposure to intense summer heat. “Exposure to extreme heat can be dangerous and potentially life threatening.”
There are several heat-related illnesses that can occur:
- Sunburn causes redness and pain in the area burned. Blisters, swelling, fever, nausea, vomiting and headaches can occur.
- Heat cramps are usually severe cramps in the leg and abdomen area, accompanied by heavy sweating.
- Heat exhaustion causes weakness and lightheadedness, heavy sweating, vomiting and fainting. Skin appears cold, clammy and pale.
- Heat stroke is the most dangerous and life threatening heat illness. It causes body temperature to rise over 106 degrees. Skin appears dry and red and a person’s pulse will be fast. Victims may be disoriented, combative and argumentative. Heat stroke can quickly lead to unconsciousness and death.
Dr. Vohra recommends wearing light colored and loose fitting clothing, staying indoors during extreme heat and to never ignore the signs of heat stroke.
“A heat stroke occurs when a person’s body temperature rises. In an effort to lower the body temperature, the brain dilates all blood vessels in the skin, “ said Dr. Vohra. “The skin usually appears red, hot and dry from dehydration.“
Dr. Vohra recommends cooling the victim as quickly as possible and taking them to a hospital. “Place a cool cloth or ice pack on the victim’s head and neck and begin massaging their extremities,” said Dr. Vohra. “Place ice on head and neck area first, followed by the armpits and groin.”
Along with taking care of themselves, parents and caregivers need to take extra precautions with young children and animals, implores Fairburn. “Leaving a child in a car, even for a few minutes, can turn into a deadly situation. Even if the windows are rolled down and the outside temperature is 83 degrees, the temperature inside the car can reach 109 degrees Fahrenheit in approximately 15 minutes.”
Dr. Vohra’s offers the following tips for staying safe during summer heat:
- Stay in a cool, well-ventilated area as much as possible during extreme heat.
- Check on the elderly often to make sure they have proper cooling systems, food and water.
- Avoid strenuous activities like running, biking and outside work during the hottest time of the day.
- Do not stay or leave anyone in closed, parked cars during hot weather.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
- Do not drink alcohol or beverages with caffeine.
- Never bundle a baby in blankets or heavy clothing when outside in the heat. Sweat glands in infants are not well developed and they do not tolerate heat well.