Another day, another summer…
June 20, 2011 1 Comment
Heat rises from the sidewalks of the city. Backyard grills appear again. Sun dresses, outside tables, kites, picnic baskets, bike riding. The world welcomes us to summer. In the hospital, it is a time of great change. All of us – residents, fellows, medical students – are moving on in our journey. Over a period of a few weeks, we will be “promoted” to new positions in the hospital. Some of us – those who have completed their training – will be leaving, to become attending physicians at last.
The emergency room, windowless and air-conditioned, feels the heat of summer in our patients. Sunburns, carbon monoxide exposure from boats, firework injuries, fractures from playing sports, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and the list of summer maladies goes on. And so it is with the seasons of emergency medicine.
Here are some important words of advice, for those of us want to enjoy our summers and avoid the emergency department.
1. Wear sunscreen. This applies to people of all ages. Do not let the urge to get a beautiful tan quickly take over here. Use at least SPF 15, preferably 30 to 45. Wear baseball caps and sunglasses. Protect yourself from those rays which will wrinkle your skin, penetrate the epithelial layer, damage cells, and increase your risk of skin cancer.
3. Be aware of running boats, and avoid swimming in these areas. Refer to a CDC report from 2004 for more information, Carbon Monoxide Poisonings Resulting from Open Air Exposures to Operating Motorboats.
4. Do not operate equipment while drinking alcohol. This includes boats, lawn mowers, grills. Some studies have estimated that 6 to 45% of injuries that present to the emergency department are alcohol-related cases. Refer to a World Health Organization project website, Alcohol and injuries, for more information.
5. If you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet at all times. Wear protective gear. Do not ride after drinking alcohol. Be careful on the roads. Do not ride in the dark if at all possible.
6. In the summer heat, invest in air conditioning. Approximately 400 people die in the United States per year of heat stroke, which is defined as a core body temperature that rises above 40C. Refer to an excellent review article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 , Heat Stroke.
These tips only touch the surface – but they are related to some of the most common, and devastating, injuries that we see in the emergency department. So cool off, be responsible, enjoy the summer, and avoid the emergency department if you can!