Preventing Trips to the ER: Summer Safety from Frontline Providers

July 14, 2016

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

Pop quiz: Which of the following is not a real summer health hazard?

  1. Getting a foot parasite from not wearing shoes
  2. Eating a metal bristle from a BBQ grill brush
  3. Being attacked by a wild bear while hiking
  4. All of the above are real risks

Answer: D. The truth is all choices are real (albeit improbable) risks.

Everybody knows you need to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water to stay healthy in the summer, so First Stop Health polled its ER doctors on what the most common unexpected reasons for summertime ER visits are and how to avoid them. The common theme from all the advice we received was, “Don’t leave common sense behind” during the hot summer months.

Footwear Common Sense                             

"I don’t know how many stitches I’ve put into people’s feet for walking around barefoot,” says Dr. Mark Binette, an ER physician from Phoenix, Ariz. “Always protect your feet.” Shoes are one of your most crucial pieces of safety equipment (flip-flops don’t count!) for preventing ER visits whether you’re on the beach, at the park, or travelling. Walking barefoot or in flip-flops puts you at risk for cuts, trauma, slips and falls, and even parasites (in kids).

Eating Common Sense

Be careful about eating foods that have been out too long. Foods may be contaminated from exposure or sharing, and this even applies to grilled foods. One famous case of BBQ-related injury involved a man showing up at the ER with severe stomach pain. It wasn’t food poisoning--he had swallowed a metal bristle from a grill-cleaning brush! Dr. Binette notes, “Be careful with the types of foods that you eat. If you go to a restaurant and you take a bite and it tastes a little funny, don’t eat it! If you eat it, three hours later, you’re going to be showing it to me in the ER.” With hot temperatures, be wary of buffets or food stands that have food displayed and not freshly cooked.

Playing with Bears Common Sense 

Going on vacation to national parks is a common summer vacation for many families. But keep in mind that when you enter a forest or wildlife area, the animals are not caged and act as wild animals should. It may seem surprising, but wild animal attacks, including bear attacks, are on the rise in some areas due to development in previously rural regions, increasing visitorship to wilderness areas and reducing the natural food supply for wild animals in some areas. Some may even appear in your pool when it is really hot out. Dr. Kathryn Collins, an ER doctor from Wyoming, recommends a few simple rules to abide by:

  1. “Wild animals are WILD and should be given a big berth! Do not approach! Enjoy animal sightings from a distance only.
  2. Always carry bear spray in bear country, and be prepared to use it.
  3. Animals bites are FULL of germs from the animal's mouth, so it’s important to WASH any wound with soap and water right away and apply pressure if bleeding.

Seeking Healthcare Common Sense

If you find yourself with a blown-out flip flop and sore foot, a bad-mayo-induced tummy ache, or a non-life threatening animal bite, First Stop Health's licensed doctors are a phone call away. Even if you or a family member is experiencing a more common summer health concern (such as a rash, allergies, or a sunburn), need some general first-aid advice, or want to know if you should go to the doctor, Urgent Care, or ER, call First Stop Health. For no co-pay or consultation fee, our doctors will be happy to help you recover from summer’s cruelty 24/7!

Originally published Jul 14, 2016 12:30:00 PM.