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Precaution can prevent summer pains

August 13, 2003|by JENNIFER SMITS

jennifers@herald-mail.com

Bone fractures, heat stroke, even sunburn - with summer weather comes hazards that keep hospitals and doctors busy treating patients.

Washington County Hospital sees an increase in a variety of injuries during the summer months, said Dr. Thomas Gilbert, an emergency room doctor.

He said there is no one injury that he has seen more of than usual this summer, but said he encounters a lot of orthopedic injuries, such as fractures and sprains, frequently incurred by people playing sports.

Gilbert said the best way to prevent such injuries is to wear proper safety equipment such as helmets, knee pads or elbow pads, depending on the sport.

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Insect bites, stings and snake bites also can be a problem in the summer, Gilbert said. When outdoors, it is important to wear proper clothing and shoes that cover the feet, he said. People should avoid perfumes and brightly colored clothing, which can attract insects, he said.

Gilbert said summer also brings water-related injuries and near drownings. He said children should be supervised while in a pool and boaters should wear life jackets.

Even though temperatures have not been as high this summer as they were last year, heat can still be a problem, Gilbert said. He said there are two types of heat-related illnesses, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat stroke is more serious, he said, and can cause lasting problems, as well as death, if left untreated.

"We see a couple of patients a year with it," Gilbert said.

People should drink plenty of water and try to keep cool before they become overheated, he said.

Gilbert also warned of the dangers of sunburn. He said he has seen sunburns that were considered second-degree burns and had to be treated with topical antibiotics. He cautioned that continued over-exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer.

At the Hagerstown YMCA's Camp Holiday day camp, it has been a mostly uneventful year in terms of injuries, camp Director D.J. Stouffer said.

"We haven't had any serious injuries," he said. "Knock on wood."

Mostly there have just been a few bumps and scrapes, he said. "A lot of them occurred at the skating rink," he said.

The most serious injury at the camp this year occurred when a child fell during a skating trip and hit his head on the wall of the rink, Stouffer said. He said the child was fine after an ice pack was applied to his head.

He said there have been a few bee stings this summer, but none of the children bitten had allergic reactions. The camp requires that children who are allergic carry medication with them, he said.

Sunburn is not a problem because camp counselors carry sunscreen and apply it to all of the children before they go out in the sun, Stouffer said. He said camp counselors also carry first-aid kits when the campers go on field trips and one is kept at the YMCA.

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