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UT Physicians offers tips to avoid a summertime ER visit

PHOTO OF ROBERT ;LAPUS
UTHealth pediatric emergency medicine physician Robert Lapus, M.D., is the last person you want to see this summer. PHOTO CREDIT Rob Cahill, UTHealth

HOUSTON – (May 14, 2018) – Everyone enjoys spending the summer months in the great outdoors but you have to do it responsibly or injury can occur, say doctors with UT Physicians, the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth.)

“The summer is a busy time for ER physicians,” said Robert Lapus, M.D., a pediatric emergency medicine physician with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, UT Physicians and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “We see lots of broken bones, burns and cuts.”

With two-wheelers flying down busy bike paths, all-terrain vehicles moving along trails and beaches crowded with swimmers (some with little or no swimming experience), many accidents occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Following these safety tips from UT Physicians will go a long way toward keeping you out of an emergency center this summer.

Respect the heat – When temperatures soar, stay indoors. If you have to go out, wear light clothes, try not to overexert yourself and avoid the hottest part of the day. It is time to get out of the sun, cool down the body and drink water if you feel dizzy, nauseous or weak – signs of heat exhaustion. Too much sun can lead to heat stroke – a potentially fatal condition. Characterized by confusion, vomiting, shallow breathing and seizures, heat stroke warrants a call to 911 and first aid until paramedics arrive. “It is important to stay hydrated,” said Ali Naqvi, M.D., a pediatrician with McGovern Medical School and UT Physicians-Jensen. “Also, never, ever leave an unattended child in a car.”

Protect your skin – Sun exposure is like putting miles on a car tire. It is cumulative and there is no way to reverse it. That sunburn now can increase your risk of cancer later on. Dermatologists recommend sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Also, wear a hat and cover those arms. Wearing a specially designed shirt for swimming called a rash guard helps, too.

Learn to swim – Each day in the United States, there are approximately 10 fatal drownings. Swimming lessons are recommended for children around the age of 4 but they are sometimes given to children as young as 1 year of age. Never leave a child unattended near water and while watching children, parents should make sure they are not distracted by cellphones or alcohol use. Young or inexperienced swimmers should wear a life vest. Whenever you are in a boat, a United States Coast Guard-approved life vest should be worn. Lapus added, “Learning CPR is a good idea, too.”

Beware of venomous stings and bites – If you are not allergic to bees, wasps or fire ants, many stings can be treated by washing the affected area, using a cold pack to stop the swelling and maybe applying a bandage. Calamine lotion can help with the itching and ibuprofin with the pain. For the approximately 2 million Americans who are allergic, insect stings are much more serious and can be fatal. Some people with insect allergies carry epinephrine injection kits, which can mitigate the reaction, until medical attention can be obtained. Snakebites are also an outdoor issue with researchers reporting that more than 1,300 children in the United States suffer snakebites each year on average, with 25 percent occurring in Florida and Texas. Whenever possible, avoid tall grass and wear boots and long pants. If you are bitten by a snake, clean the bite with soap and water, keep the bitten area below your heart, firmly wrap a bandage two to four inches above the bite and seek medical attention.

Wear a helmet – Every year in the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of bike-related injuries – some fatal. Cyclists can reduce their injury risk by donning helmets, wearing bright clothes, using lights and reflectors and obeying the rules of the road. “Helmets and kneepads are good for other sports, too, including skateboarding,” Naqvi said.

 

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