To say that 2020 has been an unusual year is a major understatement as we continue to find our way through what’s been deemed a “new normal” amid the ongoing health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, as the hottest months wear on, many families big and small and limited groups of friends are still finding ways to enjoy some summer activities as best as possible, while maintaining a safe distance and taking appropriate precautions.
These activities may include finding time to relax by the water and swim, taking trips to see other parts of the country, or simply exploring parts of your town/city that you haven’t seen before. You may also be spending more time getting active to stay healthy, and working up a sweat (which in our home state of Georgia is easy enough to do).
Still, as nice as it can be to get outside and delight in some traditional activities and pastimes, the summer months are not without their risks — even in regular times. Here at DAR Law, we want you to have as much fun as possible while also keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.
Here are four common summer-related injuries and how to avoid them whenever possible.
1. HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS
Each year, scientists declare that we’ve set a new record for sustained heat during the summer. This year is no exception, on track, according to experts, to yet again assume the dubious honor as one of the hottest on record.
Scientist Dan Collins, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Climate Prediction Center, told the New York Times in June that the late summer months this year, “across almost the entire United States” are “likely to be above normal.”
Given these soaring temperatures, heatstroke and dehydration are very real. The Centers for Disease Control says that more than 600 people die every year from extreme heat conditions in the United States.
What does this mean for you? Same thing most experts have advised for years: Go easy on yourself, drink lots of water, and carefully observe any of the following warning signs of dangerous reactions to the soaring temperatures.
According to the CDC, these are the tell-tale signs of heat exhaustion:
- Muscle cramping
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or fainting
Heatstroke, an escalation of heat exhaustion, will result in these symptoms, per the CDC:
- A body temperature higher than 103°F (39.4°C)
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
Along with drinking water and paying close attention to overheating, you can also try avoiding being outside during the hottest times of day (estimated to be around 3 p.m., when enough heat has accumulated throughout the day to warm the ground up).
If anyone in your group begins to feel lightheaded or seems overly tired, make sure that you bring them to a shady spot nearby, give them some water, and make sure to monitor their condition.
Remember, the most sure-fire way to treat any heat-related illness is to avert it from happening in the first place.
2. Burns, including sunburns, and beach accidents
Too much fun in the sun doesn’t just sap you of your energy if you aren’t careful to regularly hydrate, but it can also result in severe burns without the steady, consistent application of sunscreen throughout the day. Even if it’s overcast, be sure to at least coat your face with some UV protection.
Of course, with cookouts and occasions to go camping and gather around an open fire when the weather is warm, there are unfortunately other ways to get burned, too. (Even fireworks, for instance, injure around 10,000 Americans every year.) If someone in your family or group does get burned, be sure to hold the injured area under cool (not cold) running water or apply a cool, wet compress until the person reports that their pain has lessened. Apply an antibiotic ointment and wrap loosely with a bandage.
Minor burns should heal within a couple of weeks. If someone is more seriously burned (beyond redness and minor blistering), you should immediately get them to a healthcare professional or hospital.
Also, FYI, at the beach, using an umbrella is a good idea to avoid direct sunlight, but remember to secure your beach umbrella so that it does not go flying. Beachgoers getting injured by flying umbrellas has become a big problem. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 3,000 people each year are rushed to emergency rooms for injuries involving umbrellas.
3. Water injuries — including slipping and falling and drowning
As reported in 2014 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “in emergency rooms across the country, the three-month period that follows spring is known as ‘trauma season.’” The piece continued with some alarming statistics, that “among children, traumatic injuries can double during summer months,” and “adult trauma cases also jump 25 to 30 percent in the summer months.”
These traumatic events can all too often be the result of water activities gone wrong. Head and neck injuries can result from diving in shallow water. For lake and ocean excursions, there are frequent boating accidents. And unfortunately, drowning occurs all too often as well.
As reported by the CDC, “Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings occur in home swimming pools. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1-4 than any other cause except congenital anomalies.”
Any poolside activities or swimming excursions where children are involved should entail careful supervision by parents or other guardians. And remember to move slowly and carefully so that you don’t accidentally slip and fall and get a broken bone, concussion, or worse.
Close supervision of young children is mandatory. Don’t rely on the presence of lifeguards to protect your children. While lifeguards are present to monitor the safety of patrons in the pool, they don’t provide the one on one supervision that young inexperienced children require. If your child is a beginner in the pool, have them wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. A drowning can occur quickly – in a matter of seconds – and are typically silent – meaning the victim does not have a chance to scream out for help.
4. Car Accidents
Yes, this may seem a little counterintuitive — after all, car accidents do happen year-round. But just like during the holiday season, summer is a time when we see people driving longer distances, taking time off, and so on. Heat can also impact the condition of your car, wearing down tires and increasing the risk of a blowout, and stressing your engine when left out for long periods of time in the blistering sun.
There is also much more construction, which can mean sudden slowdowns or stop-and-go traffic where fender benders or worse can occur. And don’t forget that there are a ton more teenage drivers out behind the wheel during their summer vacation time (given that teens are less experienced drivers, they see a statistically see a higher frequency of accidents behind the wheel).
All of this adds up to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declaring that August is one of the “deadliest months” when it comes to vehicle collisions. If something does happen, here are our recommendations on what to do after a car accident. Acting fast and with a clear head afterward can be crucial.
Ways to avoid getting into an accident this summer, of course, include making sure to avoid any distractions while you drive (so put that smartphone away!), to buckle your seatbelt, and to regularly get your car (especially your brakes) checked out and tuned up.
Of course, even with the above guidelines, we all know that it’s not always possible to foresee or prevent the worst from happening. After all, that’s why they’re called accidents. If you are involved in an incident that has resulted in personal injury, and you think you may need to speak with a lawyer to get the compensation you deserve (here are some common ways to know if you may have a case), we are here to help.