By Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C
Our Memorial Day celebrations might look a little different this year as we attempt to integrate festivity and social distancing. However, some aspects of the summer holiday will remain constant. If you are planning on spending any amount of time outdoors, face masks and six-foot radiuses will not protect you from the five most common Memorial Day medical mishaps. Here’s how to stay safe and prepared.
Outdoor Memorial Day celebrations are often multispecies melting pots. Children are particularly vulnerable to animal bites and insect stings. In fact, after accidental falls, animal bites and insect stings are the second and third leading causes of nonfatal injuries resulting in emergency department visits in children ages 0 to 9, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here’s what to do:
- To limit the possibility of an animal bite, supervise your children around any unfamiliar animals. Any pets that tend to get overstimulated in new situations should be leashed or tucked away indoors.
- To stay prepared in the fight against insects—particularly if you live in an area inhabited by fleas, ticks, and mosquitos, all of which transmit unseemly diseases—dress the family in hats, long-sleeve tops, and long pants, and don an insect repellent before heading outside.
- Make sure to keep a supply of Benadryl and calamine lotion in stock for any insect contacts that do occur. And, if you or a loved one have a known insect allergy, you should always have an EpiPen within close range.
After being cooped up indoors for weeks on end, our bodies may be a bit shell-shocked by the first hot day of the summer. If the weather forecast predicts Memorial Day will be a scorcher, make sure to properly hydrate prior to any outdoor activities—particularly exercise—and keep up with fluid and electrolyte replenishment while you are outside.
Staying hydrated is particularly important if you will be drinking alcohol, which, as a natural diuretic, will work against your hydration efforts. If you or a loved one becomes extremely hot, tired, achy, dizzy, lightheaded, or confused, immediately seek a cooler environment and call for help because these may be signs of a medical emergency known as heat stroke.
The swimming pool is a central aspect of life during the summer, and many community pools celebrate their grand opening over Memorial Day weekend. Though public pools may not be opening with full gusto this summer, backyard pools and even shallow play tubs still pose considerable risks for unsupervised children. According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children ages 1 to 4. To avoid potential calamity, children in this age group should always be supervised around standing water of any kind.
A bad sunburn could spoil your entire Memorial Day. If it’s bad enough, it could spoil many of the days following, and leave you vulnerable to downstream consequences like premature skin aging and skin cancer.
To avoid a burn, apply sunscreen liberally to any exposed areas of skin, especially if you plan to be outside during the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a water-resistant product with broad spectrum coverage (UVA and UVB) that is 30 SPF or higher. Apply 15 minutes before heading outside, and reapply every two hours. For any spots that you inadvertently miss, aloe vera gel can help with damage control.
Ah, the barbecue. This timeless symbol of summer and patriotic liberty also symbolizes many lurking hazards. Here’s how to avoid the top barbecue backfires.
- Cuts and Scrapes. Will your patio spread be including a bountiful display of fruits and vegetables? All it takes is one misplacement of the knife and you may be serving up the tip of your finger along with the sliced watermelon. Make sure you do your chopping prior to imbibing, preferably in the area of your home where you normally prepare food. If you do sustain a scrape or slice in the line of duty, clean copiously with soap and water, wrap the wound with a pressure dressing, and keep it elevated. If it has been more than five years since your last tetanus shot, you will need to head to your local healthcare provider for a booster dose. If you’re up to date on vaccines and your bleeding is well-controlled, you can likely manage at home with Neosporin.
- Food Poisoning. The first rule of barbecuing has been pretty well publicized: Don’t eat undercooked meat. However, side dishes pose dangers, too. If you absentmindedly go for a second helping of a mayonnaise-based salad after it has been incubating in the sun for hours, you may be in for a bout of gastrointestinal distress. In general, you should be suspect of any food that has been sitting in the sun for more than two hours, or one hour if the outside temperature is warmer than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Burns. In the event of an unpredictable blaze, the master griller should have a prepoured bucket of water ready nearby in to rapidly douse any body part that accidentally gets too close to the flame. For any burns beyond first-degree skin redness (look for signs like blistering, skin whiteness, or exposure of underlying tissue), follow up with your healthcare provider. He or she can prescribe a burn medication, such as silver sulfadiazine, to help with inflammation and infection prevention. This medication can be expensive, so use a ScriptSave WellRx savings card to find the lowest price.
From all of us at ScriptSave, we wish you a happy Memorial Day. We hope that these guidelines will help you stay safe and enjoy celebrating the holiday in a novel way.
Libby Pellegrini is a nationally certified physician assistant. She currently works in emergency medicine where she sees and treats a broad spectrum of illnesses across all age ranges. She holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University.