Skip a Trip to the ER with These Summer Safety Smarts

Hospital caregivers rushing down hallway with patient in hospital bed

Nothing feels more like summer than sunburn and bug bites, amirite?! Eh, not so much. That’s why it’s important to take the right precautions for a safe and fun-filled season with family and friends. And there’s no one better to provide a list of potential summertime hazards (and ways to avoid them) than an emergency room doctor who has seen it all.

Dr. Andrew Ziller, chair of emergency medicine at HealthONE’s Rose Medical Center in Denver, has the skinny on how to stay healthy as we approach the most beloved and biggest celebration around the nation – the Fourth of July.

Here’s what you need to know to avoid the most common summertime disasters.

Water Safety

Swimming is at the top of the list because of how simple it is to make sure that people who are around the pool and who can’t swim are monitored. Even a small amount of water is a potential risk in the right situation. Sadly, children are most often the victims of drowning incidents.

  • It’s unsafe to swim alone. You should always have someone with you when you’re swimming, even adults.
  • For people who own pools and who have children, make sure those pools are protected.
  • Think long and hard before you dive head first into the water. Ask yourself, is it safe? Is it smart? Every year there are serious diving injuries that could have been prevented.
  • Wear water shoes. Already this summer I have seen a number of people who’ve gone barefoot and sustained a cut to their foot or, in one case, a stubbed toe that later got infected.

They now make a lot of good footwear for people in the water so there’s no excuse, says Dr. Ziller.

Weather Elements

Sunburn is one of the more common occurrences and occasionally it can be really bad. All of us at some time in our lives have gotten a little sunburned. We’re now finding out that exposure to the sun may be worse than we thought when I was young and it serves a risk for cancer too. Prevention is key.

  • They make so many good options out there for sunscreen but protecting yourself with hats and covering up is important too.
  • People in the water or on boats are especially at risk for sunburn because so much of the sun reflects off the water and on to the individual. It really magnifies it.
  • Be aware of the conditions, your surroundings and the weather. The thing about sunburn is that oftentimes you don’t know you’re burned until it’s too late.

Heat exposure. There were places in the country that reached 120 degrees in the last couple of weeks. So, you’ve got to be careful if you’re in one of those locations.

  • Stay out of the sun, stay hydrated and stay cool.
  • If you have to be out in those conditions, a moist cloth will help cool you down.
  • Heat and alcohol is a dangerous combination. Avoid drinking alcohol in the heat.

Lightning may be more of a Colorado issue – where it’s the third deadliest state for lightning strikes – but it’s an important one to be aware of, nonetheless. Unfortunately, people die every year from being struck by lightning. It’s a well-known statistic that the odds of being struck by lightning are greater than winning the lotto.

  • Individuals on a golf course are vulnerable to lightning strikes, but it could occur on playing fields of any sort.
  • If you can see a bolt of lightning, stay out of an open area where you might be at risk.

Biking and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV)

Tragically, ATV injuries account for an increasing number of deaths every year because they’re out there so much. I know someone who lost their brother from an ATV injury, so this hits close to home. These injuries are preventable by taking the following safety precautions.

  • Wearing a helmet is the most important thing you can do to keep yourself safe during both activities. My pet peeve is when I see a family riding down the street and the kids have on their helmets, but not the parents. Parents, wear your helmets, too.
  • Staying sober is also key when you’re biking, but particularly on an ATV.


Summer is the time to enjoy the great outdoors. However, sorry to say, mowing your lawn and the invasion of creepy-crawlers are one of the necessary evils of the season. More than 80,000 people visit the emergency room each year because of lawn mower injuries.

  • Always wear good footwear and eyewear. Lawnmowers tend to spit off a lot of debris that can cause eye injuries.
  • Use bug spray and wear protecting clothing to help prevent those pesky bug bites.

“The uptick in emergency room visits are seasonal. For these type of injuries it is much busier in the summer,” Dr. Ziller said. “Thankfully, these incidents are typically minor but they are also preventable.”

If anyone has questions about when to come to the ER, Dr. Ziller would rather you erred on the side of the caution. “I would rather see someone with a minor injury and say you’re fine instead of the problem persist or escalate. That’s what we’re here for.”

Dr. Andrew Ziller is the medical director of the emergency department at Rose Medical Center in Denver. Rose Medical is a member of the HealthONE system, a division of HCA Healthcare.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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