By Rebecca Roybal Jones / Journal Staff Writer
It’s nearing summertime.
And when it’s summertime, it’s time for sun. And if it’s time for sun, it’s time for sunscreen. If it’s time for sunscreen, it’s time for water-play. If it’s time for water-play, it’s time to put on a life jacket and brush up on your crawl stroke. If you’ve been swimming, you’re bound to get hungry and want to grill hot dogs. If you’re going to grill hot dogs, you’ll want to make sure the grill is used in a safe, open area.
Yes, it’s time for summer fun but it’s also time to think safety first, says Beverly Allen, communications coordinator for the American Red Cross in Albuquerque.
“The best thing you can do to prepare for emergencies is take an American Red Cross First Aid Course,” according to Rahim Balsara, regional CEO of The American Red Cross in New Mexico.
He adds that first aid classes for pets and other classes such as baby sitter training and water safety/life guarding are among the classes the nonprofit organization offers.
Sanjay Kholwadwala, a physician and medical director of the emergency department at Lovelace Westside Hospital, says it is especially important to keep hydrated when the temperatures climb. Levels of dehydration can range from mild dehydration to heat exhaustion to heat stroke, the most serious of the three levels. Heat stroke victims show signs of confusion and organ dysfunction, requiring a hospital stay. Dehydration commonly occurs during the summer months when “people are playing outdoors and overdo it,” Kholwadwala says.
He advises people spending lots of time outdoors to take a break out of the sun, and to drink fluids.
Kholwadwala reminds folks to carry water when hiking, and to use sunscreen to prevent sunburns and exposure damage.
And when you are cooling off at the pool, always have a companion with you, he says.
“That’s one of the biggest safety issues,” Kholwadwala says. “You can slip and fall and land in the water.”
He also reminds swimmers to avoid diving into shallow swimming pools, such as those at hotels. People often hit their heads, fracturing or spraining their necks.
Kholwadwala urges those who ride bikes to wear helmets and those on skates or skateboards to wear protection for head, knees and elbows.
The summer months in the emergency room get busy with sprains and fractures from folks playing basketball, jogging and other activities. The ER gets busy with other types of injuries, as well. One example of the possible but not-so-common injuries are rattlesnake bites. Often, it’s folks who keep a rattler as a pet who get a bite.
“Most people get them from approaching a snake,” Kholwadwala says. “Avoid them. Don’t try to handle it.”
All rattlesnake bite victims should be taken to the emergency room for evaluation, he says, “even if it’s a dry bite.”
Do not attempt to cut out or suction out the venom, he warns. Instead, snugly — not tightly — apply a tourniquet above the bite until the patient can get to an emergency room, Kholwadwala advises.
Here are some safety tip reminders from Balsara and the Red Cross:
• Before hitting the road for an adventure, be sure you’re well-rested, alert and wearing your seat belt.
• Pay attention to high-wind warnings. Heavy, blowing dust can impede visibility. Also, check the weather report.
• In addition to letting others know where you are headed, your route and expected time of arrival, carry an Emergency Preparedness Kit in the trunk of your car filled with: high-protein snacks, water, a first aid kit, a flashlight, a small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications and any other important information you want to have on hand in case of an emergency.
• Remind those handling fireworks to never point or throw them at people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.
• When firing up the grill, don’t leave it unattended. Remember that grills shouldn’t be used in a house, camper, tent or any other enclosed area.
Here’s to a fun and safe summer.