MARTIN — Summer is here, kids are out of school and fun and freedom reign. But with every summer comes an increase of injuries ranging from minor bumps and bruises, to serious head injuries or broken bones.
Saint Joseph Martin, part of KentuckyOne Health, is working to help parents ensure that a summer injury doesn’t spoil the fun.
“A number of summertime injuries are preventable simply by taking some basic precautions,” said William Smith-Mensah, Saint Joseph Martin emergency department physician. “Wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle, limiting sun exposure and drinking plenty of water are some simple preventative measures that can make a big difference.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximately 570 Americans die every year from heat exposure. Kentucky has a warm humid climate and often experiences summer temperatures soaring well into the 90s, as well as a heat index over 100 degrees making heat-related illness a serious threat. Some simple, yet effective steps can help prevent sun and heat-related injury and illness.
• Drink two to five times more than the usual amount of water.
• Use sunscreen rated SPF-15 or higher and reapply often.
• Remember that the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so limit time outside during these hours. Choose cooler, early morning or evening hours for outdoor activities.
• Limit physical activity. If exertion is required, take frequent breaks. Also, heed warning signs such as a pounding heart or shortness of breath, and stop to rest in a cool place.
Never leave a child or pet unattended in a car. Temperatures inside a vehicle can heat to life threatening temperatures in a matter of minutes.
It is also important to avoid sunburns, a significant risk factor in the development of skin cancer. According to the CDC, Kentucky had the sixth highest melanoma death rate nationally from 2002-06.
Also common during summer are brain injuries resulting from a fall, bicycle crash, sports injury or dive into a shallow pool. According to the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky, one in five Kentucky families report they have at least one family member with a brain injury.
The CDC research indicates that 75 percent of all traumatic brain injuries are concussions and many concussion victims may show no symptoms initially.
If a child experiences a head injury, be sure to keep a watchful eye. Changes in normal behavior, vomiting or loss of consciousness can all be a sign of something more serious—requiring immediate medical attention.
“Brain injuries can be life changing, but some can be prevented by using cautionary measures,” said Darryl Kaelin, MD, Associate Professor and Chief of Physical Medicine and Rehab at University of Louisville, and medical director of Frazier Rehab Institute, part of KentuckyOne Health. “Many people assume that a concussion is minor, but a concussion/traumatic brain injury can have long-term effects like physical disability, pain, cognitive disabilities and more.”
Frazier Rehab Institute is a comprehensive rehabilitation system that has earned national recognition for its rehab programs, highly skilled therapists, state-of-the-art-facilities and innovative therapeutic techniques. The Institute’s Brain Injury Program works with patients to address the long-term impact of brain injury.
Frazier Rehab Institute also serves as the lead center in the country for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network.
To prevent injury, keep this advice in mind during summer activities:
• All play equipment should be an appropriate height for each child. Tree houses should never be more than 10 feet in the air.
• Protective gear is a must. Be sure to outfit children with activity-appropriate protective gear, like bike helmets or shin guards for soccer, whenever they engage in these activities. Protective gear should also be worn while riding ATVs and other motorized vehicles.
• When engaging in water activities, be mindful of the water’s depth.
• “During the summer months, we see an increase in injuries from ATV accidents some of which could be prevented by wearing protective gear,” said Dr. Smith-Mensah. “Be sure to practice motor vehicle safety, even if you’re not driving on public roads.”
• In the event of an injury, know when to call 9-1-1. If a child is unconscious, vomiting, acting out of character, bleeding excessively or has difficultly feeling or moving an injured area, seek medical attention immediately.
As the largest health care provider in the commonwealth, KentuckyOne Health is committed to improving the health of both individuals and entire communities by providing top-notch quality care and prevention tools for residents across the state.