With summer in full swing, many people spend more time engaging in their favorite activities outdoors. But with increased outdoor activities comes an increase in injury rates. Trauma surgeons often refer to this time of year as “trauma season.”

“Trauma season is a time of year, which typically lasts throughout the summer months, when rates of traumatic injuries increase for both adults and children. The main reason for the increase in children or teenagers is that they’re out of school engaging in activities that are a greater risk than being in the classroom,” said Brendan Campbell, MD, MPH, FACS, chair of the Injury Prevention and Control Committee of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, which develops and implements programs that support injury prevention, and a pediatric surgeon at Connecticut Children’s in Hartford, Connecticut.

But with a little preparation, outdoor activities can be both safe and fun. Dr. Campbell offers these five key tips to keep safe while enjoying the outdoors this summer.

  1. Practice water safety: “Remember to directly supervise children when around pools, lakes, or the ocean. All it takes is a second for them to slip out of your sight and go below the surface of the water. Adults, too, need to use caution around water. You never want to swim alone, even if you’re an experienced, skilled swimmer. You can always get into some unexpected difficulties. And finally, people of all ages should wear a life jacket when operating watercraft — that goes for motorized boats, canoes, kayaks, and jet skis.”
  1. Wear a helmet: “We can never emphasize helmet use enough when it comes to safety. You can dramatically decrease your risk of injury if you wear a helmet when you’re riding a motorcycle, ATV, or bicycle.”
  1. Know the basics of fire safety: “Never use gasoline as an accelerant on a fire. Gasoline doesn’t burn, it explodes. And when you have children around fires, you want to supervise them closely. Everyone enjoys roasting marshmallows by the fireside, which I encourage everyone to do this summer, but when you have younger kids, you want to make sure they’re doing it in a safe way.”
  1. Use caution around fireworks – even after the 4th of July: “Two of the most devasting injuries that we see related to fireworks are injuries to the eyes and hands, which most often occur to people holding a lit firework that explodes. You never want to allow young children to handle fireworks. With older children, you want to make sure they’re being supervised closely when they’re handling them. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a sparkler can cause a burn or eye injury. In fact, sparklers account for about half of all firework-related injuries in children under the age of 5. And, finally, do not handle fireworks when you’re impaired by alcohol or drugs — it will dramatically increase your risk of injury.”
  1. Know the signs of heat-related illnesses: “When the temperatures are high, plan outdoor activities early or late in the day, and avoid lengthy exposures to heat and direct sunlight. Always use sunscreen and drink plenty of fluids. Alcohol use increases your risk of injury and makes it harder to stay hydrated, so remember to drink responsibly. Finally, never leave children or pets alone in the car. Car temperatures rise quickly, and children are at increased risk of getting heat stroke and dying if left unattended in a car, even for short periods of time.”

Dr. Campbell emphasizes that while some of these tips may seem like common knowledge, he and his colleagues treat injuries related to outdoor activities every summer — all it takes is a split-second lapse in judgment for a traumatic injury to occur.

“I think it’s important for all of us to remember that injuries are not accidents. They are, in many ways, predictable and preventable events,” he said. “By taking a few simple precautions, we can greatly lessen our risk of injury so we can enjoy the summertime and avoid spending any time in the emergency department or operating room.”

Watch a video interview with Dr. Campbell.

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About the American College of Surgeons 

The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 87,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. “FACS” designates that a surgeon is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.