Newswise — STONY BROOK, NY, JULY 2, 2014 – For many Americans, summer means fun in the sun; kids are out of school, adults are on vacation and it's time for outdoor activities. But with all these pleasures of the season comes injuries and increased visits to the emergency department.
Trauma and injury remain a devastating problem in the US and is the leading cause of death for those under the age of 45. Almost 200,000 Americans die of injury every year and nearly all are completely avoidable. Trauma experts at Stony Brook University Hospital offer some advice on how to prevent common injuries this summer, while still having fun.
“Summertime is the worst time of the year for injury, and our trauma numbers go up,” says Jane McCormack, RN, Trauma Program Manager, Stony Brook University Hospital. “People are getting outdoors, doing high energy activities and they really need to take a moment to think about safety and take some precautionary measures. At Stony Brook, we see many injuries related to swimming, boating and biking, but a huge problem is fireworks and burns,” she says.
Burns: Nearly 10,000 Americans are injured by fireworks each year, according to the National Council of Fireworks Safety. Most of these injuries occur during the Fourth of July holiday and include serious burns, loss of fingers, and blindness.
“Each year, we treat adults and children injured by fireworks” says Steve Sandoval, MD, Director of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center at Stony Brook University Hospital. Dr. Sandoval says the safest way to enjoy the Fourth of July or any other celebration is to view public firework displays, which are handled by professionals, from a safe distance.
And fireworks aren’t the only thing that can cause summertime burns, outdoor grills, both charcoal and propane cause hundreds of injuries and thousands of fires every year.
“During the summer months, we also treat at least a few injuries from fire pits and campfires,” says Dr. Sandoval. Children must be supervised around these fires, and it is advised that you keep a bucket of sand and/or a garden hose nearby in case the fire grows. Place the fire pit away from trees, branches and foliage in order to prevent catching fire.
Be sure your BBQ is well maintained and cleaned regularly. When barbecuing, children should be far enough away to prevent a burn injury and remember to keep all barbecue accessories, including charcoal, lighter fluid, propane gas tanks well out of the reach of kids as well.
Dr. Sandoval reminds Long Islanders that flammable liquids, like lighter fluid or gasoline should never be used to start a fire. “Unfortunately, the Burn Center treats flash burns to the face and torso when these agents have been used.” Dr. Sandoval advises.
Water Safety: From a dip in the pool to a day on the beach, Long Island is the ideal place to cool off in the summer heat! But along with all the fun of swimming, body surfing or just paddling around come some real dangers — including the risk for drowning. Statistics show that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury and death for children ages one to four, and that drowning can occur in as little as two inches of water.
“Drowning deaths can occur very quickly, even when children are left unattended for just a few minutes, and children drown without making a sound,” says Erin Zazzera, RN, Pediatric Trauma Coordinator, Stony Brook University Hospital. “When children are swimming, always designate one adult to keep a watchful eye on them without any distraction. This means no talking on the phone, or leaving the area without assigning another adult to take your place. Safeguard the pool area using several layers of protection such as door alarms, self-locking gates and pool alarms. If a child is missing, check the pool first.”
And for adults, James Vosswinkel, MD, Medical Director of the Trauma Center, Stony Brook University Hospital, says, if you’re going to hit the water, don’t mix in alcohol. “Alcohol impairs judgment and increases risk-taking, a dangerous combination for swimmers,” says Dr. Vosswinkel. “Even experienced swimmers may venture out farther than they should and not be able to make it back to shore, or they may not notice how chilled they’re getting and develop hypothermia. Even around a pool, too much alcohol can have deadly consequences. Inebriated divers may collide with the diving board, or dive where the water is too shallow.”
Boat Safety: According to the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. For passengers, intoxication can lead to slips on deck, falls overboard, or accidents at the dock.
Also when boating, wear a life jacket. More than 73 percent of the people in boating accidents drowned and more than 90 percent of the people who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.
“By and large, summer accidents are avoidable, or at least the risk of serious injury can be lessened, if proper safety measures are taken,” says McCormack. “Summer is a great time to hit the great outdoors, we just need to play it safe.”
About Stony Brook University Hospital:
Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH) is Long Island’s premier academic medical center. With 603 beds, SBUH serves as the region’s only tertiary care center and Level 1 Trauma Center, and is home to the Stony Brook Heart Institute, Stony Brook Cancer Center, Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital, Stony Brook Neurosciences Institute, and Stony Brook Digestive Disorders Institute. SBUH also encompasses Suffolk County’s only Level 4 Regional Perinatal Center, state-designated AIDS Center, state-designated Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, state-designated Burn Center, the Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence, and Kidney Transplant Center. It is home of the nation’s first Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Center. To learn more, visit www.stonybrookmedicine.edu.