Break Point!

Volume 2, Issue 8 View the Archives August, 1999
Break Point Visits the Dog Days of Summer
Don't be Thrilled to Death
Keep Cool in the Summer Heat
Learn About RV Safety and Other RV Pitfalls
Lawn Mower Safety
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Break Point Visits the Dog Days of Summer

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

In Chicagoland, August is traditionally the last month of the summer during which extreme heat waves occur. It is also the last month before the kids go off to school and we begin to prepare for cooler weather.

August is usually the time we look at the calendar and wonder where the summer has gone and about all the fun things you still want to do. Many people begin to plan last minute activities to fill their final days of the sunny season.

This month Break Point will cover a variety of summertime issues: amusement park safety, heat stroke/heat exhaustion, lawn mower safety and RV safety.

Make the most out of the rest of the summer and have fun safely.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 or email to: Kathy O'Day with any comments or questions.

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Don't be Thrilled to Death

Some of the most popular warm weather activities are carnivals and amusement parks. People of all ages enjoy the rides whether they spin, loop or whirl. There usually is something for all age groups and they provide a relatively safe form of family entertainment.

Consumers are demanding the fastest, wildest, biggest rides for their higher admission dollars. This forces designers to create more exciting rides. Combine this with the large crowds and unintentional injury is inevitable.

The National Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that between 7000 and 8000 ride-related injuries occur each year. These estimates are based on emergency department visits and not actual data collected at the parks. The numbers also do not reflect those with minor injuries who choose to visit their own physicians.

Most of the injuries on amusement park or carnival rides are preventable. This includes such things as the disregard for safety rules by both operators and patrons. Almost every ride has a set of safety rules. These usually require that riders meet certain criteria relating to age, height and weight, or not have certain medical conditions.

For example, small children might be prohibited from some rides because of their low body mass. People with back or neck problems may be at greater risk of injury on rides that create force on these areas.

When at the amusement park or at a neighborhood carnival be aware of the safety rules. Don't attempt to disregard them or have others disregard them. Children who are too young or too small to ride will eventually meet the requirements in the future if they stay safe now.

It is also important to note that horseplay increases the potential for injury. Be mindful of others in the crowd. Drinking and rides and crowds are a bad mixture. Don't use alcohol or any other drugs in an attempt to heighten your thrills.

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Keep Cool in the Summer Heat

Heat waves are extended periods of extreme heat. This combination of high temperatures and humidity can be deadly. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, heat related injuries are a leading cause of death. In July 1995 the extreme heat contributed to the deaths of more than 700 people in the Chicago area. This summer more than 150 deaths have been attributed to the heat in the Midwest.

Normally, the body cools itself by sweating. If the temperatures are high and the humidity levels are also increased, not enough sweat is produced to maintain the body's normal temperature. When this happens, blood chemistry can change and internal organs can become over heated. This can lead to organ shut down.

The most common heat-related conditions are heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are the most serious. Heatstroke occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature. The body temperature could reach 106 degrees F or higher. This can be a result of overexposure to direct sunlight.

The symptoms of heatstroke include: a high body temperature (above 103 degrees F), red, hot and dry skin, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness. Heat exhaustion can develop when too much time is spent in a very warm environment, resulting in excessive sweating without adequate replacement of fluids and electrolytes.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include: dizziness, headache, nausea, abdominal cramps, shallow breathing, cool and clammy skin, muscle tremors and heavy perspiration.

If symptoms of heatstroke or heat exhaustion are present, emergency treatment is necessary to avoid permanent disability or death.

Start first-aid treatment to victims of heatstroke or heat exhaustion. Find a cool place, preferably one that is air-conditioned and indoors. Loosen his or her clothing and bathe the body with cold water.

If the person is able to drink, have them drink cool, non-alcoholic, decaffeinated beverages. Keep the person quiet. Seek medical attention.

Here are some good tips to avoid heat-related problems:

Drink plenty of liquids. At least 1 - 2 quarts of fluids daily. Drink fluids throughout the day; do not wait until you are thirsty. The feeling of increased thirst is usually a sign of dehydration. Use a buddy system. If you are working in the heat, check on co-workers. Check on the elderly in your area. Locate the cooling center closest to their house. Many park districts and senior centers have been designated as cooling centers. Limit outdoor activities. Try to plan activities in the cooler times of the day. Avoid direct sunlight between noon and 4PM. If you plan to be out, rest frequently and sit in the shade. Protect your body. Wear loose fitting, lightly colored clothing. Wear a hat and use sunscreen. Do not forget to reapply it often especially if you are perspiring heavily or in the water. Never leave children or the elderly parked in a car, not even for just a few minutes! The temperature inside the car can reach over 120 degrees F. this can lead to brain damage or death. Avoid exercise and other strenuous activity. Even mowing the lawn or walking can increase the chances of heatstroke or heat exhaustion. Seek medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms of heatstroke or heat exhaustion even the day after you have been exposed to high temperatures.

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Learn About RV Safety and Other RV Pitfalls

Whether you are a seasoned Recreational Vehicle operator or just starting out, you still need to plan ahead for a safe, trouble-free and enjoyable trip. When something goes wrong, it can usually happen far away from home, in unfamiliar territory, and can turn your journey into a nightmare. It is well worth your time to know as much as you can about RV safety to reduce the potential risks you and your RV may face down the road.

The more you travel the more "stuff" you accumulate and the more you hate to leave at home. The added weight can lead to tipping over and incorrect judgments on turns and stopping.

Following these RV safety tips will increase the safety of all the passengers on board:

  • Take only what you need. Take your RV to weight scales. Do not estimate it is easy to underestimate by several hundred pounds. Keep your load balanced. This minimizes the swing of the RV and keeps the center of gravity low.
  • Check over all of the RV equipment and systems at least one week before you take it on the open road.
  • Be sure to carry a smoke alarm. Test the alarm once a month and change the battery yearly.
  • Have at least two fire extinguishers. One in the cooking area and one close to the sleeping facilities.
  • Have an LP leak detector. All of the appliances operate with propane. Propane is safe and dependable but also flammable. The LP leak detector should be installed with in one foot of the floor.
  • Carbon Monoxide detectors should be installed at waist to shoulder levels to be most effective. The batteries should be replaced yearly.
  • As always, don't drink and drive.

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Lawn Mower Safety

Summertime is well underway and for many of us that means yard work. The weekly ritual of mowing the lawn and weeding the garden.

According to national statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 74,582 injuries involving lawn mowers. Two common injuries according to the CPSC, are amputations and injuries caused from thrown objects.

The revolving blade of a lawn mower can throw objects at over 200 miles per hour. The reaction time of most people is about two-thirds of a second, so they can't react fast enough to dodge a spinning blade or a thrown object.

Follow this five-step plan to avoid unintentional injuries when operating your lawn mower:

  1. Select the right mower for the job. Make sure you have the size, strength and experience to run it.
  2. Know your equipment. Read the owner's manual and follow all safety decal instructions. Adults should make sure kids are properly trained before giving them the mowing job.
  3. Properly prepare the area. Pick up any sticks, rocks, toys and trash before you mow. Dress properly for the job. You may feel more comfortable in a light tee shirt and sandals on a hot day but wearing sturdy shoes and long pants protect your body from flying debris.
  4. Pay attention to what you are doing. Don't allow children around the area you are mowing. Just as you shouldn't drink and drive, you shouldn't drink and mow. Don't operate your mower when your reflexes are impaired by any substance.
  5. Operate your mower safely. Wait until the grass is dry before mowing. Always push a mower, never pull, you run the risk of having your feet slip under the mower deck. Be sure to shut the mower off before unclogging it or leaving it unattended.

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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

Break Point's Big Back to School Issue
  • School Bus Safety
  • Car Pooling to School
  • Walking Safely to School

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