Ah, summer in San Diego. The beach. The sun. The barbecue. The sports. Sounds great, right?
Well, it can be. But it can also be a time for injuries — both serious and minor ones. There is usually a spike in certain types of injuries as the temperatures rise, according to Elisa Wilson, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Hillcrest.
Don’t panic when an unforeseen injury occurs, and you want to seek medical care. You have a choice of health care locations and providers who can help, including your primary care doctor, urgent care, walk-in clinics and the emergency room. Minor injuries and conditions can be treated at Scripps HealthExpress — which are same-day, convenient care, walk-in clinics that are open from early morning until evening and on weekends.
Perhaps the biggest culprit of summer injuries is the ever-present summer sun. In San Diego, it’s particularly brutal — especially on unprotected skin.
Everyone, no matter your complexion, should wear sunscreen to block harmful UV rays and avoid exposure during the peak hours of noon to 3 pm. Limit the time you spend in the sun, even during off-peak hours.
“Certainly, reapply sunscreen if you’re in the sun for long periods of time or coming in and out of the water. And make sure your children are protected as well,” Dr. Wilson says.
“It doesn’t take long in San Diego to get burned. If you do experience sunburn and your primary care doctor is unavailable, you should visit your nearest urgent care center or a walk-in clinic such as a Scripps HealthExpress,” Dr. Wilson says.
Summer brings out the weekend warrior in many of us — even if we haven’t swung a bat or laced a pair of running or basketball shoes in months! Unfortunately, we often don’t allow our bodies time to adjust to the increased activity, and that often leads to injuries.
“My advice is to take it slow and stretch,” Dr. Wilson says. “Allow your body time to warm up and cool down afterwards.”
Over-exerting yourself in a sporting activity is an easy way to sprain or strain an ankle. If you do hurt your ankle, apply ice to decrease the swelling. Walk-in clinics treat minor sprains and wounds. If you continue to have trouble walking and are concerned, see your doctor.
If your summer activities include riding bikes, skateboards or strapping on roller blades, be sure to follow the advice you give to your children. Wear a helmet! Set a good example for your children and prevent injury, all at the same time.
Great outdoor venues abound in San Diego County for summer hiking, camping or picnicking. But keep in mind that these areas are also home to rattlesnakes. There are many common misconceptions about treating a rattlesnake bite.
“First, don’t cut the wound or suck out the venom, which can lead to infection. Stay calm and get yourself to a hospital as soon as possible,” says Dr. Wilson.
Don’t hike alone in the first place. It’s important to have someone who can help you if you are bitten. Protect your ankles and lower limbs while hiking in wilderness areas by wearing long pants, tall hiking boots and thick socks. This will also protect you from poison oak, a common noxious plant in Southern California that can lead to a serious itchy rash.
While bee sting allergies are not as common as you might think, for those who are allergic, extreme caution should be taken when spending time outdoors. If you are stung, scrape the stinger off with a fingernail or credit card. “If you notice a shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing, go to the nearest emergency room,” says Dr. Wilson.
Backyard cookouts are also a source of serious injuries. Make sure you have a screen over the grill and that the grill and propane tank are in an open area with no overhanging tree branches. Keep the area 10 feet around the grill free of leaves and other flammable materials. And keep children away from the grill.
If you are burned, cool the burned area with cool water, an ice pack or soaked cloth. Then cover with a sterile dressing. You should call 911 if you experience difficulty breathing, if the burn covers more than one body part, involves the head, neck, hands, feet or genitals, or involves a child or senior. Certainly burns resulting from chemicals, electricity or explosions should be treated by a physician in an emergency room.
Keep an eye on your children during outdoor summer activities. Never leave a child unattended near water. A few short minutes away from the backyard pool to answer the phone can have tragic consequences. Similarly, at the beach, decide who is going to watch the children. Don’t assume your spouse or other adults in a group are monitoring their safety.
And when away from home, keep a simple first-aid kit handy to deal with minor injuries and carry your cell phone so that you can call 911 in case of an emergency.