Break Point!

Volume 4, Issue 6 View the Archives June, 2001
Break Point's Sunny Summertime Issue
The "Weekend Warriors" guide to Fitness Safety
Make Your July 4th Safe
Gardening Safety Tips
Be Prepared for Sudden Severe Weather

Break Point's Sunny Summertime Issue

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

For months we have been waiting for the warmer weather to arrive so we can get outdoors and enjoy the short summer.  Even though this is the "vacation season" don't take a vacation from safety issues.

Many people want to get in shape for the swimsuit season and begin an exercise program without taking time to prepare their bodies for the added stress.  This issue will provide tips to help you safely get in shape.

Summertime is also the time for severe weather, particularly lightening and thunderstorms.  Don't be caught in a storm this summer.

This is the time to get outdoors, plant your garden, and maintain your lawn.  Learn some safety tips to enjoy gardening 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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The "Weekend Warriors" Guide to Fitness Safety

Regular exercise is a smart part of a healthy lifestyle and being physically fit can help prevent injuries especially later in life.  However, failure to plan a fitness routine and giving your body time to prepare for the added stress can lead to injury.  Walking, for example, might be virtually injury free, but ignore traffic on your walk and you could end up with a broken leg...or worse.

Focus your attention on proper planning before you begin to exercise.  If you plan to exercise outdoors, keep safety in mind.  Here are some tips to help keep injuries at bay:

  • Walk or run against vehicular traffic, except on a blind curve when you use the outside of the curve.
  • Make sure your shoes are well cushioned and have adequate support.
  • Look both ways when entering a trail or road.  Pay attention to the cars and bicycles in your path.  Even though you are not driving, you need to adhere to the rules of the road.
  • Wear gear that is appropriate for your sport and make sure it is fitted properly.
  • Cycle with traffic and obey all traffic signals.
  • Ride your bicycle single file on the road.
  • Warm up slowly before exercising, allow time for a cool down and stretch.
  • Drink plenty of water especially if you will be exercising in warmer weather.
  • Avoid exercising in the middle of the afternoon.  Choose the cooler mornings or evenings.

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Make Your July 4th Safe

According to Prevent Blindness America, nearly 13,000 fireworks victims keep hospitals busy every year.  More than half of those treated are children.  Fireworks not only injure users, but also 40 percent of fireworks injuries are to bystanders.

The three types of fireworks that keep hospital emergency departments busy during this holiday period are bottle rockets, firecrackers and sparklers.  Bottle rockets and firecrackers can fly in any direction prior to exploding and sparklers burn at 1800 degrees, hot enough to melt gold!

One of the reasons fireworks injuries continue to occur is because people just don't consider how dangerous these devices can be.  People often don't realize-until they are injured- that the risk of blindness or injury outweighs the excitement of taking risks with fireworks.  Giving fireworks to young children can mean a trip to the hospital.

Take this fireworks safety quiz.  Answer true or false.  Don't let fireworks injuries ruin your holiday.

  1. Only people who are careless or unsupervised are injured from fireworks.
    False. Fireworks are unpredictable; therefore the risk of injury is present no matter how many precautions you take.  The best way to avoid injury is not to use fireworks.
  2. Only people who set off fireworks risk injuries.
    False. Many bystanders are injured from "runaway" fireworks.  No one is completely safe around fireworks.  40 percent of injuries occur to bystanders.
  3. Males are more likely to get hurt from fireworks.
    True. since men and boys are the most common fireworks users, they account for the most injuries.  4 out of 5 injuries occur to men between the ages of 22-44 and 12-14.
  4. Homemade fireworks are just as safe as store bought fireworks.
    False. Homemade fireworks are more dangerous because the chemical compounds combined created a larger explosion.  Homemade fireworks are illegal in every state.
  5. Using fireworks is an inexpensive way to celebrate the Fourth of July.
    False. The cost of treatment of fireworks injuries far outweighs the cost of the fireworks.  There are also high costs for fireworks damage to property as well.
  6. My state bans fireworks.
    Illinois law bans the use of fireworks with the exception of novelty items such as snakes and smoke bombs.
  7. Fireworks injuries can only occur during the Fourth of July.
    False. Fireworks injuries can happen at any time during the year.  The potential for injury is present any time you use fireworks.
  8. Sparklers are safe fireworks and can be given to children.
    False. Sparklers burn at 1800 degrees. Severe burn injuries occur when children touch the heated metal even when the sparkler has burned out.  Clothing can ignite from the sparks.
  9. Gunpowder is a major ingredient in most types of fireworks.
    True. Most fireworks contain gunpowder.  Firecrackers contain up to 50mg of Gunpowder.

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Gardening Safety Tips

According to the National Gardening Association, two out of three American households take part in some gardening activity each year.  Chores vary regionally but include: raking leaves, transplanting trees and shrubs, planting spring-flowering bulbs and perennials, removing dead branches from trees, controlling troublesome weeds, and law mowing.  Whether you're a master gardener or budding amateur, keep these safety tips in mind.

Avoid overexposure to sun.  Limit the time you spend working in direct sunlight by gardening during early-morning or late-afternoon hours.  This way, you'll avoid the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time period when the sun's rays are strongest.

Protect your skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants instead of shorts, and a wide-brimmed hat.  When skin is exposed, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.  Heat stress can also be a risk; thus keep water by your side to remain hydrated.  Remember to take frequent breaks by going indoors and relaxing in front of a fan.

Warm up.  Cumulative injuries, such as tennis elbow or tendonitis occur when people overextend themselves on a job they tackle only once or twice a year.  Stretch your upper-body muscles before heading outside.  For overwhelming tasks, enlist help from family members, take frequent breaks, and spread the job across several days or hire professional help.  Also, pulling weeds can result in pain.

To prevent strains and sprains, consider the following:

  • Keep your back erect when working at ground level and when using long-handled tools, such as spades and rakes.
  • Bend at your knees and hips to lift objects.  Alternate or use both arms whenever possible.
  • Keep your elbows bent.  Don't rest your body weight on your elbows.  Grip hand tools lightly.  Work below shoulder level whenever possible.  If you must work above shoulder level, perform the task for five minutes or less.  Be careful with power equipment.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 400,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments each year for injuries from lawn and garden tools.  To prevent a mishap, read equipment-operating instructions and be aware of your surroundings.

Consider the following when operating power tools:

  • Know how to operate equipment.  Read the manual and follow all instructions.  Wear long pants, close fitting clothes, sturdy shoes and safety glasses.  Don't wear anything that could get caught in moving parts, such as loose jewelry.  Tie back long hair.  Handle gas carefully.  Fill up before you start - when the engine is cold.  Clear the area of rocks, twigs, toys and anything that could be thrown by mowing equipment.
  • Keep children and pets away from the area until you're finished.  Never carry a child as a passenger on a riding mower.
  • Keep your hands and feet away from moving parts.  Never work on equipment when it's running.
  • Don't point the blower nozzle of a leaf blower toward people or pets.
  • Use a dust mask in a dusty or dirty environment.
  • Wear earplugs when using noisy equipment, such as leaf blowers or wood chippers.
  • Don't drink and use garden equipment.

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Be Prepared for Sudden Severe Weather

Spring and summer are the seasons that produce sudden and severe weather that include lightning, high winds, and tornadoes.

Avoidance and prevention are the best means of lightning safety.  Although total avoidance may be difficult, the risks can be minimized.

Approximately 100 to 600 people die annually in the United States as a result of lightning.  Serious injuries are caused in about 1000 to 1500 persons each year.  There are more deaths caused by lightning than any other natural phenomena including floods, hurricanes and tornadoes.

There are several mechanisms of lightning injury.  The most severe is the direct strike, either on the victim or on some object the victim is holding such as a golf club, tripod or umbrella.  A "side flash" occurs when lightning hits a nearby object and jumps to the victim.  Ground current injures the victim when lightning strikes the ground nearby and spreads to the person.  Rarely, people may be injured or killed indoors while using the telephone or taking a shower.  Burns may occur from jewelry, clothing or other heated material.  Finally, blunt injury and trauma may occur secondary to the shockwave from a lightning strike or from a resulting fall.

Injuries occur to persons whom their jobs require them to be outside such as, postal and construction workers.  The numbers of farmers injured have decreased over the years due to farmers working in larger fields and ride in better protected fields.  Injuries during recreation have increased.  Injuries occur to joggers, hikers and campers as well as golfers.  In addition, a significant number of people are injured while participating in team sports.

Although lightning is seemingly random, there are some things you can do to minimize your risks if you are caught in the open during a thunderstorm:

  • Avoid being the tallest object in the area, get as low as you can, but don't lie on the ground.
  • Do not stand near the tallest object in the vicinity, like an isolated tree.  Sheltering from the rain under a tree is often a factor in people being struck.
  • There is no "warning sign" that will tell you reliably that lightning is about to strike.  The time from the flash to the thunder is rough measure of how distant the lightning is.  If you see a flash and count the seconds, five seconds corresponds to about a mile.  However, there is no distance from a thunderstorm that is absolutely safe!  If you can see the lightning, then you are under some threat.
  • Avoid being near fence lines and power lines that lead into areas where lightning is occurring.  A flash can travel along the wires and jump to you.
  • G/Call for medical help immediately if someone is struck!  In the meantime, administer CPR to any lightning strike victim if their heart has stopped and they have stopped breathing.  If they are simply not conscious, treat for shock (not electrical shock).  There is often a danger of hypothermia for victims especially if they've been in the rain.
  • Use the "30/30" rule: take shelter if the time from seeing a flash to the time you hear thunder is 30 seconds or less and don't resume activities until 30 minutes have elapsed from the last lightning strike and thunder.

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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