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UPMC Expert: Make Warm Weather Activities More “Ahh” and Less “Ouch”

The rainy days of spring are on their way out and soon we will be heading into the summer sun. This time of year is prime time to head outdoors and enjoy all that the region has to offer. Whether you plan to head out to the woods for a hike or camping trip, paddle down your local creek or river, or simply lounge out by your pool or on the patio grilling, taking time to ensure you are doing so safely can help you enjoy plenty of “ahh” moments and minimize your risk for “ouch!”

Consider the following tips to help stay injury-free and out of the emergency room:

Keep an Eye on Swimmers

– When the temperatures climb, it’s fun and refreshing to hop in a pool or pond or go for a float in the creek. You should always supervise young and weaker swimmers around water. Try appointing someone as a lifeguard to keep an eye on swimmers. Make sure younger children are within arm’s reach in the water, wear the appropriate flotation device for your skill level and activity, and never drink alcohol while swimming, operating a boat, or supervising swimmers.
– When it comes to picking a bathing suit for your child, consider the color for visibility. Light blue, pastel, or light tan colors, are especially dangerous as they blend in with the water, making it difficult to see the child, especially if they are at the bottom of the pool making it challenging for lifeguards or parents to see a child in distress quickly. In contrast, bright colors like fluorescent orange, green, pink, and red are the safest options for children’s swimsuits. These colors stand out and are easy to spot in the water.

Stay Safe Under the Sun

– There’s no better feeling after a cold winter and rainy spring than soaking up the sun — but don’t forget sunscreen. Skin can become severely burned after just a few hours in the sun, which can increase your risk of skin cancer in the long run. Even if you are covered up, ensure any exposed skin is protected. A hat and sunglasses can offer extra coverage. Don’t forget to reapply the sunscreen after two hours of sun exposure.
– Picnics and patio gatherings are fun. Ensure they are cool by providing shade, like umbrellas or covered picnic areas, to reduce sun exposure for yourself and your guests.
– Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day, heat-related illness can be very serious and even life-threatening. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Drink plenty of water and if you want to mix it up, choose a non-alcoholic and caffeine-free beverage.

Don’t Get Burned by a Fire or the Grill

– Hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks, yum! These staples are traditionally cooked up on a grill outside, but before you break out the grill for the season, make sure it has been thoroughly cleaned. Dirty grills cause many injuries, particularly propane grills. Keep items that you don’t want grilled away from the flame, and don’t wear loose clothing while you grill. After your barbecue is over, make sure the coals are completely out, and the propane is turned off at the tank — knobs can accidentally get bumped by guests, little hands, and pets.
– A great ending to a day outdoors includes a group of friends around a campfire, but it is important to make sure everyone stays safe. Alcohol and fires usually mean trouble. Alcohol impairs judgment and it can be a dangerous combination with fire. Watch children around open flames and teach them fire safety.
– If you are camping, keep tents and other flammable materials away from the campfire. Build your fire downwind from your campsite, and ensure the fire is out before going to bed. Make sure the fire is fully extinguished as even smoldering coals can reignite and get out of control if left unattended.

Drink Responsibly

– Alcohol might be a part of your celebration. If so, decide in advance how much alcohol you are going to be drinking, and stick to your plan. If you are going out, elect a designated driver or pre-arrange alternate transportation home.
– Just like you would not drive your vehicle while intoxicated, avoid drinking alcohol while boating, riding a four-wheeler or side-by-side, dirt bike, or even riding your lawnmower or other outdoor equipment.
– Warm weather and the sun can easily cause dehydration, especially if you are drinking alcohol. Consume plenty of water in addition to your beverage of choice and don’t drink on an empty stomach.

This time of year is beautiful in northcentral Pennsylvania. With planning, you and your family can enjoy the season and the summer holidays ahead without having to make a trip to the emergency department. If an accident does occur, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

By Kayla Keen, RN
Trauma Services, UPMC in North Central Pa.

Kayla Keen, RN, is a trauma injury prevention nurse with Trauma Services at UPMC Williamsport, a Level II Trauma Center. May is National Trauma Awareness Month and UPMC is encouraging everyone to be educated on injury prevention and focus on safety, not just this month, but all year round. For more information on the comprehensive Trauma program at UPMC Williamsport, visit