School is out and summer is here! Summer brings busier schedules and we become more adventurous, getting outside and engaging in activities like hiking, biking, and swimming. If you’re like me, these fun pastimes also bring on muscle aches and bruises in places I didn’t even know existed.
In addition to the fun, being outdoors more puts us at higher risk for broken bones, sunburn/poison, insect bites, injuries, and the complications associated with them.
A sudden increase in vigorous physical activity can also contribute to a more serious health problem, like a heart attack or stroke. Just like when we encourage individuals not to be “weekend warriors” and shock their bodies with sudden, overly challenging physical activity — like when people rush out in the winter to shovel vast amounts of heavy snow — we should also take it easy when we start being more active in the warmer months. It’s always good to gradually work up to a higher rate of activity intensity. In other words, it’s better to start out walking and gradually progress to a short run, and so on, so you can avoid being that 1 in 6 individuals who suffers a heart attack.
A major concern in this beautiful land of lakes and waterfalls is water safety. Although I can get spooked thinking about the slithery creatures lurking beneath the water’s surface, they’re not what cause the most injury and death. It’s swimming, which poses a 1 in 1,024 chance of death. Drowning and something called “dry drowning,” a serious condition where a person experiences a lung injury and muscle spasms due to water aspiration, present serious risks to swimmers. Dry drowning doesn’t look like what we think of as drowning, because it can happen very fast and only requires a small amount of water to do its harm.
Remember to practice good water safety techniques when you decide to venture into any body of water. This means having swimming mastered and wearing a life jacket if you’re canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, or boating.
And no matter what fun summer activity you participate in — even if it’s laying in a chaise by the pool and reading — never underestimate the power of the sun. It’s important to keep yourself well hydrated with an ever-present water bottle and to use UV-blocking sun protection in the form of a sunscreen that has a strength of at least SPF 30. It’s safer to limit your direct exposure to the sun and seek shade during the “prime” sun intensity hours of between 10am and 4pm.
Outdoor lovers also have a 1 in 6,368 risk of death from sunstroke, or heatstroke, a serious condition caused by sustained sun exposure in high temperatures and lack of hydration. Symptoms of heatstroke include a temperature of 104 degrees or higher (a true medical emergency that requires immediate care), headache, dizziness, red, hot skin, and a lack of perspiring. You may also experience nausea or vomiting, rapid heart rate and breathing, and muscle cramping. I can’t emphasize enough that if you have any of these symptoms, it’s critical to get to an Emergency Department as soon as possible.
If you’re doing yard work, biking, or hiking, insect bites and stings can be more than a nuisance, especially if you have an allergy. Those allergic to bee stings should always be equipped with an epinephrine pen, which prevents you from going into anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening condition.
Mountain biking and hiking in our beautiful mountains are also associated with various risks. Try to go hiking with a buddy, remember your cell phone as it’s equipped with GPS capabilities, and don’t forget water, snacks, and a jacket. Stay up-do-date on weather conditions, so you don’t find yourself in the path of a storm, and take care to avoid an ankle sprain by steering clear of slippery surfaces like wet, moss-covered rocks. Finally, be mindful of waterfall safety by reading posted warning signs well and following their guidelines. Waterfall accidents cause a number of deaths each year in western North Carolina.
The good news is that these summer-related health issues are preventable, simply by following safety guidelines, being familiar with each condition’s symptoms, and knowing what to do if you or someone you’re with experiences them. In short, remember to drink water, slather on the sunscreen, wear your protective gear like sunglasses, bike helmets, and life jackets, and stay aware of your surroundings.
If you run into trouble or need medical attention this summer, don’t delay seeking it. A call to 911 initiates a chain of care that’s more successful the earlier it starts. It has the power to improve the continuity of efficient, effective care you get once you reach Angel Medical Center (AMC), and so does providing your caregivers with an accurate medication list and medical history information.
In June, we also recognize Men’s Health Month, National Nursing Assistants Week (June 16-22), Health Care Risk Management Week (June 20-24), and National Safety Awareness month, all good things to celebrate.
I hope you enjoy getting out this year, remember to stay safe, and if you need us, know that AMC is your center for both community emergency care and total health care.
Clint Kendall, FACHE, MBA, MSN, BSN, RN, is Chief Executive Officer/Chief Nursing Officer of Angel Medical Center. He started his career as a nurse, and that perspective still informs his work and passion for the patient experience. Clint holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Nursing, and Health Care Management from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Western Carolina University. He comes to Angel Medical Center from Andalusia, Alabama, where he served as Chief Executive Officer of Andalusia Health, part of LifePoint Health. Clint has also earned the Certified Professional in Patient Safety (CPPS) certification, and is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), and the American Nurses Association (ANA).