The Charlotte area welcomes hiking, biking, swimming and whitewater rafting during the summer season. But all of this outdoor activity keeps emergency rooms busy.
Kristin Young, a spokeswoman for Medic, said the first hot week of the summer is when ERs start to see an increase in patients.
“People aren’t acclimated to the heat at first,” Young said. “It just sneaks up on them.”
Young children and the elderly need to be particularly careful during this season. Box fans and air conditioning are especially important at the beginning of the summer when bodies are not yet acclimated to the hot weather.
Some other health tips for the summer:
Heat exhaustion is one of the most common cases that emergency rooms see during the summer, Young said.
So far this month, Medic has received 24 heat-related phone calls.
She recommends avoiding strenuous activity between noon and 3 p.m., the hottest time of the day.
She said people should make sure to stay hydrated during this period. Before any strenuous activity, hydrate a few days in advance.
Alcoholic beverages also add to the risk of dehydration, Young said.
Dr. Charles Bregier, the medical director of Novant Health Urgent Care, said drinking water and sports drinks that have electrolytes can also prevent dehydration when active in the heat.
Young said heavy sweating, muscle cramps, dizziness and headache are all signs of heat exhaustion. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care because they can lead to heat stroke, when body temperature reaches 105 degrees.
Hiking, biking, skateboarding
Charlotte’s greenway system offers many opportunities for biking and hiking. But Bregier said he sees three to four times as many injuries from falls and abrasions in the summer as he does in other seasons.
Sprains from falls off skateboards and bikes are common, he said.
He also said he sees many severe skin abrasions after people fall over and their skin slides against rough surfaces. When this happens, he encourages warm showers, scrubbing the abrasions and applying an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection and reduce pain.
With most of western Mecklenburg County surrounded by water, pool and lake safety is crucial.
Young said Medic encourages parents to sign their children up for swimming lessons when they are young.
“However, swimming is not drown-proofing,” Young said.
Pools, she said, should be fenced and alarms should be installed on doors leading to pools.
Don’t swim alone. Beginner swimmers should wear proper life vests and avoid horseplay near the water, she said.
Head injuries are also common when swimming, so people should always jump feet first, Young said.
There are other risks on the water.
Head and other injuries are common when people fall out of rafts, Bregier said. Pay close attention to instructors and wear appropriate head gear, he said.
Bregier said sunburn is a concern when swimming. Water does not protect skin from the sun, so reapply sunscreen every hour, he said.
Young said one of the most important pieces around pool safety is learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
“Acting quickly by calling 911 and starting CPR will help save a person’s life, especially in a drowning situation,” Young said.
Bugs and snakes
Fire ant bites and bee stings are common in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area during the summer.
Fire ants are small and aggressive bugs that will cover feet and legs quickly and can leave serious rashes.
People allergic to fire ants are susceptible to anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. They are encouraged to keep epinephrine and Benadryl at all times and call 911 if bitten.
To avoid bee stings, Medic encourages people to avoid drinking fluids high in sugar outside. Bee stings in the mouth are also common because bees can get into drink containers.
Bregier also said people should avoid walking barefoot in grasses to help prevent bee stings. Treatment for severe allergic reactions to bee stings is similar to treatment for fire ant bites.
North Carolina is one of the two leading states for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which can be transmitted by tick bites, Bregier said.
He said people should keep their skin protected when hiking to protect against tick bites. People should seek medical care if they are bitten by a tick and experience fever, headache or a rash.
Copperhead snakes are the most prevalent poisonous snake in the Charlotte area. If you’re bit, remain calm and call 911.
Avoid reaching into dark areas because snakes can get into garage cabinets, Bregier said.
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