RochesterJune 19, 2012
Keeping it cool in the summer
By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer
ROCHESTER — During the summer months, most people want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. But local experts want people to know that many dangers can be found in your own backyard, including seasonal hazards such as stinging insects, and sunburn and other heat-related illnesses.
“The main thing that we’re seeing here is people working with hedge trimmers and stuff who cut their fingers and hands. I haven’t seen too much sunburn or sun poisoning yet, and I haven’t seen very many tick bites, so I think everyone is doing pretty well as far as using bug spray to keep mosquitoes and ticks away,” said Kumar Nanda, an emergency room physician at Crittenton Hospital.
Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik said people are most at risk for heat-related illness during the summer. The good news is, with the proper precautions, most can avoid getting sick.
The best defense, according to Cieslik, is making sure that you remain hydrated by steering clear of alcoholic and sugar-filled beverages and making sure to drink before you feel thirsty.
“Kids, adults or animals playing outside need to remember to drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated because the sun, on a warm day, can take the extra body fluids out of your body, and you could suffer cramps, headaches or even pass out. Don’t forget to make sure that your puppies or cats have fresh water too,” he said.
Wearing sunscreen while outside; taking a cool shower or bath; wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; and staying indoors or visiting an air-conditioned venue when possible on hot sunny days are other good preventative measures to avoid heat-related illness.
Paramedics and emergency room personnel often get calls from people severing fingers or injuring themselves while doing yard work over the summer.
“Although parents sometimes like to have an adult beverage, they shouldn’t be drinking an adult beverage and operating the hedge trimmers, cutting grass, or things like that, so that they don’t get hurt,” Cieslik cautioned.
Nanda recommends that people who plan to do work in the yard wear safety goggles and gloves when working with any power equipment.
“If you are going to be taking any medication that’s going to make you drowsy, you should not use any power equipment,” he said.
Stinging or biting insects such as bees, wasps, hornets and fire ants can also put a damper on outdoor fun. Thousands of people are stung by insects each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and as many as 90-100 people in the United States die as a result of allergic reactions. If a bee, wasp, or hornet stings you, the CDC recommends having someone stay with you to be sure you do not have an allergic reaction.
“If somebody has a known allergic reaction to bee stings they should definitely carry an Epi-Pen. Otherwise, people who aren’t allergic don’t usually have significant problems, but if it is very painful, there is a lot of swelling, or you have trouble breathing, you need to come in to the emergency room immediately,” Nanda said.
Those who aren’t allergic to the sting should wash the sting site with soap and water, remove the stinger by wiping gauze over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area, and apply ice to reduce swelling. Nanda said Benadryl or an anti-inflammatory medication like Motrin or Tylenol can be used, if needed.
Other outdoor risks include trampolines, swimming pools and grills.
Trampoline jumping poses a high risk of injury for both children and adults, resulting in everything from bruises, scrapes and cuts to broken bones, head injuries, and neck and spinal cord injuries that can result in permanent paralysis or even death. While the American Academy of Pediatrics says trampolines should never be used at home or in outdoor playgrounds due to the high risk of injury, the AAP does support limited use of trampolines in supervised training programs, such as gymnastics and diving classes. Those who choose to purchase and use trampolines at home are encouraged to use safety nets and pads, place the trampoline on level ground and always make sure someone is supervising the activity.
“We always like to see trampolines that have the safety fence around them and to make sure that the springs are guarded with the mat so that people don’t get their feet or arms down into the mat and get twisted up,” Cieslik said.
Those with swimming pools are advised to make sure they are properly fenced in, install anti-entrapment drain covers, keep rescue equipment close at hand and make sure swimmers are supervised at all times.
“Be sure to let children know whether it’s safe to dive or not, and kids should always swim with a responsible person who can keep track of them from a life safety standpoint,” Cieslik said.
Nanda advises swimmers to make sure they reapply sunscreen every couple of hours, even if the bottle says the solution is waterproof.
Those who man the outdoor grills also need to be careful this summer. Cieslik said grills should be at least 20-feet away from any combustible surface, such as your home, deck railings and overhead branches. Other tips to keep in mind, he said, are making sure you turn off your propane tank when you are done grilling, keep children and pets away from the cooking area and never leave the grill unattended.
“When your starting your grill make sure that if you are going to use lighter fluid that you are using it properly, and never spray lighter fluid on a fire that is already lit because it can go up the spray, into the can, and explode,” Cieslik added.
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