Approximately 130 million emergency room (ER) visits occur in the U.S. every year, with 25% of these ER visits taking place during the summer (CDC, 2022). The summer months bring unique health risks that aren’t as prominent in other seasons, accounting for this significant spike.
The key to minimizing summertime ER visits is knowing the common causes for these incidents and how to prevent them.
An increase in ER visits during the summer
Studies show that ER visits increase during the summer, surging around holiday weekends like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day (Pew Research Center, 2019). Children represent a large portion of ER patients involved in this seasonal rise. Researchers concluded that individuals are put at a higher risk of injury during these months due to an increase in daylight hours and popular outdoor activities, like using fireworks.
Reasons for increased summer ER visits
Doctors treat many injuries and illnesses during the summer months, which account for record increases in ER visits. Some of these accidents include:
Bicycle injuries: Bicycle accidents can cause serious damage like head injuries, broken bones, bruises, and fractures.
Drowning: Though swimming is a widely beloved summertime activity, it’s responsible for many deadly drownings and near-drownings.
ATV accidents: Crashes on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) like dirt bikes, four-wheelers, and motorcycles result in severe injuries and fatalities every year.
Burns: Summertime activities like bonfires, grilling, and fireworks are notorious for causing serious burns in children and adults.
Orthopedic injuries: Summer is the ideal time for outdoor sports and other recreational activities. With increased physical activity comes a higher risk of joint-related injuries like broken bones, sprains, strains, and tears.
Sun-related illnesses: Excess sun exposure causes many serious heat-related illnesses like severe sunburn, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, blistering, and heat cramps.
While these unfortunate calamities often affect children, these unfortunate accidents also extend to teenagers and even adults who participate in these summertime activities, driving up ER visits.
Who is most at risk for emergency room visits in summer?
While anyone can sustain injuries during the summer, children are more likely to have accidents that require medical attention. Once the school year ends, kids become more active and gain more free time while experiencing a significant change in supervision, putting them at higher risk of accidents and injuries.
For example, drowning is the leading cause of death for children between ages 1 and 4 and the second leading cause of injury-related fatalities in older children, making swimming a particularly high-risk summertime activity for kids (CDC, 2022).
How to encourage patients to stay safe
As a healthcare provider, you can help your patients prevent summertime ER visits by sharing the following summer safety tips:
Wear protective gear like helmets and knee pads when riding bicycles or ATVs.
Wear sunscreen, seek shade, and limit sun exposure.
Supervise children around pools, fires, and grills.
Set off fireworks at a safe distance from people and buildings.
Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
Use bug spray.
Warm up before engaging in physical activity.
By advising these summer safety tips, healthcare practitioners can help to lower the rate of these injuries and illnesses among their patients.
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