Thursday, July 3, 2014

Be Safe This Weekend - and This Summer

The beginning of every July brings a whole new set of worries to the forefront of my consciousness. 

One year my kids persuaded my husband to light a few fireworks on our driveway.
Some people never think about risk. Others see danger around every curve. Most view life from somewhere in the middle. I would usually fit in well with those who worry - a lot.  


Childhood Warnings

Throughout my childhood, I heard many warnings, which I have repeated pretty much verbatim to my kids. Cautions such as: "Don't snap that dishtowel, you could make someone lose an eye. Wear shoes - you might step on a bee. Be careful wearing rings, people have lost fingers when they catch a ring on something." And so forth. My parent's seemed to believe that if they could warn me of every possible danger, perhaps I could avoid it. Or at least that is the philosophy they passed on to me. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't matter if you know the risks, they happen anyway. And sometimes it is the things you don't even know to worry about that cause problems.

My career as a nurse made me even more leery. Watching medical dramas on television can alert the viewer to the consequences of many risky behaviors. There is nothing quite as sobering though, as taking care of a comatose motorcycle accident victim, whose skull seems only held together with bandages - knowing he wasn't wearing a helmet in that crash. Or watching a patient endure the agony of painful stiffness and spasms, because she had failed to get a tetanus shot. Accidents are random occurances - but many are preventable.

That is why I am writing these words today. 


A Patient I Will Never Forget

I don't think I have ever seen a lawn dart.  But I will never forget a young patient injured by one nearly three decades ago. 

I was not her nurse, nor was she even brought to the department where I worked.  I heard about her accident second-hand.  Most of the time hospital personnel are pretty good about not sharing the specifics of patient information.  This case was so unusual, and upsetting though, the details traveled pretty fast. Not names, of course, but details of the accident itself. 

Apparently this young girl had been at a fourth of July party, and a game of lawn darts was being played.  Someone threw a dart up high. The girl was looking skyward to see it, and it came down - right through her eye.  

Fortunately, people at the party had the presence of mind to call 911, stabilize the dart and NOT remove it.  A scan revealed that it had penetrated her brain, but skilled doctors (with the help of machines that enabled them to see inside her skull) were able to remove it without causing further brain injury.  She was very lucky - or incredibly unlucky, depending how you view it. It was just a game of lawn darts.

I have wondered if the lawn dart injury really was just an unpreventable fluke event or, if someone at the party had be alert to the possible dangers, could the accident have been avoided?  I like to think we have at least some control over our fate. That is why I worry!


Some Potential Risks of Summer 

The following list is not intended to take the fun out of your holiday weekend or your summer - sorry if it feels that way! Know some of the potential risks of summer though, we can take precautions to minimize them:

  • Alcohol - a little alcohol can impair our judgement and make us clumsy and accident prone. Too much can lead to alcohol poisoning and even death.   

-Assign a designated driver for all motorized vehicles (including water crafts) and be wary around others who are drinking. 
-Know your limits. Learn more about alcohol consumption here.
-Teach your kids to never ride in a vehicle operated by someone intoxicated. 
-Call 911 if a friend is unarousable after drinking too much.
  • Bears and other wild animals 
-when hiking in areas where there may be bear or other wild animals, be sure to make noise (sing, clap or talk loudly) so as not to surprise them.  Never intentionally approach a wild animal.
-never keep food in or near your tent when camping. 
  • Bee Stings, insect bites and ticks 
-Wear insect repellent and protective clothing. 
-Seek medical treatment for signs of allergic reaction, infection or rash if bitten or stung. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia provides a good summary of information regarding symptoms, first aid, and when to call 911. 
  • Boating and water sport accidents 
-Wear a life jacket!   
-Heed the alcohol warning above. 
-Have the necessary knowledge and skills for these activities.
  • Fireworks - I personally know people who have suffered severe burns and amputations as a result of fireworks.  The dangers are real.  
-Watching a professional display is safer (and in many places more legal!) than setting off fireworks in your backyard. 
-Sparklers can and do cause burns - despite the fact that we allow small children play with them.
  • Food poisoning
- Keep foods like potato salad cold!  Use good food handling precautions.
-The Partnership for Food Safety Education has a website that provides a wealth of information about safe food handling. Their fact sheet, “Seven Super Steps to Safe Food In the Summer” is worth reading for the food precaution reminders it provides.
  • Getting lost 
-When hiking, always let someone know of your route and the approximate time you expect to be back.
 -Inexperienced hikers should stay on marked trails.  
 -Teach your children basic survival skills such as to “hug a tree” if they get separated from you, so they can easily be found by retracing your steps. 
  • Lawn Darts - enough said.
  • Lawn Mowing
-Wear sturdy shoes to prevent slipping, and to protect feet from blades of the mower
-Protective eyewear can protect eyes from debris that flies up from the mower
-Use extreme caution around the blades of the mower.  Even when the engine is not running they can still move and cause severe injury.  
  • Motor Vehicle accidents (cars, bikes, boats, ATVs, etc.) 
-The article Teens and Summer Driving on the blog Two Teens and Their Mama offers some really good information for parents of teens.
-Use extreme caution when backing up a vehicle.  In the summer, kids and pets are outside a lot - be sure they are not behind your vehicle before you move it. 
 -Heed the alcohol warning above
  •  Over-exertion and heat exhaustion - Summer can make us feel like a kid again.  
-Unless you have been active all winter, approach physical activity gradually.
-Maintain adequate fluid intake to stay hydrated.
-Know the signs and symptoms of a heat emergency, and what to do if one occurs.  
  •  Sunburn and skin cancer
- Wear sunscreen! Reapply often! 
  • Water Safety
-Fence pool areas and never allow children to be near them or any body of water unsupervised
-Be cautious about crossing streams - the current can be much stronger than it looks
-Wear a life vest when boating
-Never swim alone, even if you are a good swimmer. Beware of ocean riptides. 
-Teach children about water safety and how to swim. 
  • Wild Fires - Nature does cause some wildfires, but thousands of acres and forests burn needlessly every year, caused by the careless discard of a cigarette, a camp fire that was not properly extinguished, fireworks that sparked a grass fire, or other human error.  
-Take all proper precautions to prevent any fires from occurring.
-Please always heed fire restrictions during fire season. 

This list is long but by no means exhaustive. Many dangers lurk in the months to come. The best advice is just to always use common sense.

I didn't even mention the risk of this activity!
Have FUN - but be SMART!

Disclaimer:  This post is not intended to provide medical advice or to be a complete educational resource, but rather merely a thought provoking attempt to increase awareness of a need for safety during summer activities. 

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

12 comments :

  1. These are very real summer concerns.

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    1. Unfortunately they are Carol - and I thought of more to add to the list after I published it!

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  2. I'm in the 'worrier' class as well. My philosophy is: If it happened to someone, it could happen to you! This is a great list! I'm sending the link on to all of my kids! Thank you!

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    1. Thanks Diane - wishing you and your family a happy and safe summer! I hope this is helpful :)

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  3. Brilliant post Susan. Being a nurse, I'm sure you've seen it all. I'm a worrier too, to a fault. But these are great suggestions and good reminders for all of us. Thanks so much for mentioning my summer driving post. I tweeted this (see, I'm working on Twitter)!
    By the way, is that a picture of YOU paragliding?

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    1. Thanks Lana. I never did work in an ER -or ED as it is now called! That would have escalated my fear of risk probably over the edge. I saw enough just in the ICU/CCU.
      I tweeted your post today too. And it was me who took the photo - of my husband and my son. That harness just looks too uncomfortable to be much fun :)

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  4. It's enough to make you want to lock yourself in the house.

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    1. Sorry Delores! Maybe I just think too much!

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  5. This is a great list Susan my motto or my saying is if you are looking at a scene like the lawn dart game and see a potential accident then it will happen...so yes i agree it doesn't hurt to take precaution...i also want to say no your body insect bites from tics are no laughing matter..recently a family member got quite sick and almost died - she was running a very high fever her body was close to shutting down went to the hospital and got the proper antibiotics she is doing good

    thanks for the post!

    :)

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    1. Marisa, thank you for reading and commenting! I am so sorry about your family member's experience with a tic. I'm glad she was finally properly diagnosed and is doing well.

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  6. Replies
    1. I'm glad you think so Janie - thanks for visiting my blog and commenting!

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Many thanks to everyone who leaves a comment here!