How to Stay Safe in the Summer: Advice from our ED Docs

July 27, 2016


Ah, the long, hot days of summer. Whether you’re at the pool or just out in the yard, the season of fun in the sun can be dangerous. These tips from some of MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center’s emergency department (ED) physicians can help you make the most of all summer has to offer.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

The very young and the very old are most susceptible to heat-related emergencies. Heat exhaustion occurs when your body overheats, and if it’s not treated, it can lead to heat stroke, which is life threatening. When the outside temperatures and humidity are extreme:

  • Stay indoors, in an air-conditioned environment if possible.
  • If you have to be outside, wear a hat and light-colored clothing to keep the sun away. “An umbrella can also do a good job of keeping you in the shade,” said Michael Antonis, DO, chair of the hospital’s ED.
  • Know the signs of heat exhaustion, including sweating, dizziness, racing heartbeat, and headache.
  • Beware of heat stroke. “Heat stroke produces a temperature of 104 degrees or higher and may cause vomiting, confusion, and rapid breathing,” said hospital ED physician Ghofrane Benghanem, MD. If you notice these symptoms, it’s time to head to the ED.
  • Stay hydrated. “We all know the rule of thumb to drink 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but in the summer sun, that amount should double,” said hospital ED physician David Lane, MD.
  • Keep an eye on your alcohol or caffeine intake and replenish fluids accordingly.
  • Check on elderly family members, neighbors, or friends.

Pool and sun safety

“The top three things to remember with kids and pools are supervision, supervision, and supervision,” Dr. Lane said. “Having a designated adult responsible for watching kids while they’re in the pool can save a child’s life.” No matter how many people are nearby, make sure someone is always acting as the lifeguard.

To minimize sun exposure – at the pool or anywhere outside:

  • Avoid sunburn and reduce skin cancer risk by applying lots of high-SPF sunscreen to adults and children. “We can never overemphasize the importance of using sunscreen each and every time you’re going to be outside,” Dr. Benghanem said.
  • Reapply sunscreen every three to four hours, or after time in the pool.
  • Wear long sleeves and hats, even in the pool.

Insect bites and stings

Ticks and mosquitoes are more than just annoying. Their bites can cause serious diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus. To avoid getting bitten:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect your skin.
  • Use an insect repellent (available in lotion, liquid, or spray varieties).
  • Consider treating your clothing with repellant if you’re going hiking.
  • Check everyone in the family – including family pets – for ticks daily.

Some people have an allergic reaction to bee or wasp stings. A severe allergic reaction is an emergency. “If you are stung by an insect and experience swelling in your mouth or throat, go to the nearest ED immediately,” said Dr. Antonis. He also recommends carrying an antihistamine (such as Benadryl or Claritin) when you’re hiking or traveling.

Have a safe and happy summer!

Please note: If you are facing a life-threatening situation, call 911.

Exceptional emergency treatment is available through MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center for anything from a serious injury or illness to a mild condition that has not responded to home remedies. With expert physicians and experienced nurses, we offer comprehensive emergency evaluations and treatments—all within a caring and compassionate environment.

Emergency Services

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center
7503 Surratts Road
Clinton, Maryland 20735
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Phone: 301-877-4500

What to Bring with You to the ER

If you are headed to a MedStar Health Emergency Department, take a few minutes to gather information and items that will make your visit go smoothly. We recommend bringing:

A family member or friend: Having someone with you can be emotionally comforting. If your condition is serious, you may need someone to provide information or instructions on your behalf.

Identification Cards: Driver's License, Social Security Card and insurance card(s). Insurance information is not required until before you're discharged.

List of medications and dosage: This information will help the medical staff avoid prescribing drugs that will interact with medication(s) you're already taking.

Primary care physician information: Contact information for your primary care physician is helpful should questions arise.