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Labor Day is often seen as the end of summer and the last chance to get outside and enjoy the outdoors before temperatures drop and the leaves begin to change. It’s also one of the holidays with the greatest number of injuries and trips to the emergency department.
The three-day weekend is typically packed with hiking, biking, backyard barbecue grilling, boating, swimming, and off-roading in the mountains. However, even fun excursions can become dangerous if people are not prepared and aware. That’s why Intermountain Healthcare clinicians are reminding Utahns to take eight steps to ensure they have a safe Labor Day weekend.
1. DRIVING SAFELY
Labor Day historically marks the end of what the Centers for Disease Control refers to as, “The 100 Deadliest Days of Summer.” During the 100 days from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the number of fatal car crashes nearly doubles.
The National Safety Council estimates there will be nearly 400 traffic-related fatalities with 42,300 people seeking medical care for accidents this holiday weekend.
“Drivers need to make sure they are well rested, not distracted, divide driving duties, and make sure everyone is buckled up,” said Dr. David Hasleton, Intermountain Healthcare’s senior medical director of emergency medicine and trauma operations. “Lives will be saved this weekend because people wore their seatbelts.”
2. BOATING SAFELY
Intermountain Healthcare physicians report an increase in the number of carbon monoxide poisonings from boats this summer.
Lethal concentrations of carbon monoxide can accumulate in just seconds.
Carbon monoxide is produced when an engine that uses a carbon-based fuel like gasoline and is left running. It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is undetectable by human sense that can poison or kill someone who breathes too much of it.
In recent cases of poisonings, “all of them occurred near the back of the boat, close to the exhaust. The children went from normal to serious problems in minutes,” said Lindell Weaver, MD, Intermountain’s medical director of hyperbaric medicine at Intermountain Medical Center and LDS Hospital.”
Dr. Weaver advises that people never spending any time near the rear (stern) of a boat while the engine is running. This includes hanging onto the back of the swim platform or being towed close to the boat.
Here are a few other preventative measures for boaters:
• Know how and where carbon monoxide may accumulate in and around your boat
• Avoid closed-off, poorly ventilated areas of a boat when its engine is running
• Watch children closely when they play on rear swim decks or water platforms, which should not be allowed if the engine is running
• Educate all passengers about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisonings
3. GRILLING SAFELY
What’s a holiday weekend without lots of food - hot off the grill? To make sure people have a safe and fun barbeque observe the following:
• Keep the grill away from the house and clear the area of any debris or tree branches that could catch fire
• Don’t use lighter fuel once the charcoal coals have already ignited
• Make sure you clean the grill after each use
• Keep water near-by for flame fare-ups
• Keep children and pets away from the hot grill
• Prevent food-borne illnesses by following cross-contamination guidelines and keeping hot food hot and cold food cold
4. BIKING SAFELY
More kids on bicycles and more cars on the road during the holiday weekend makes for a deadly combination.
Keep your children safe by requiring everyone wear a helmet – and one that properly fits. Also, make sure the children are wearing bright-colored clothing, especially if they’re riding at dusk, and their bikes have the appropriate lights and reflectors.
On high-traffic days, such as Labor Day weekend, it’s also safest to keep kids off the highly-traffic roads.
5. OFF-ROADING SAFELY
A child’s risk of being hospitalized from riding an off-highway vehicle is 1,000 times greater than riding in a car.
In Utah, 22 youth died in ATV-related crashes between 1999 and 2011, and only 58 percent of Utahns report wearing a helmet while riding an ATV.
“Head-to-toe safety gear is a must when ATV riding,” said Jessica Strong, community health manager at Primary Children’s Hospital. “That safety gear should include a protective helmet with a faceguard and goggles, which is much better than a neck brace, bandages and brain injury.”
Additionally, every rider under the age of 16 should be certified to operate an ATV under the law, Strong said, and should keep within his or her skill level, ride the right-sized vehicle and only with the recommended number of riders for the ATV. Visit www.offroad-ed.com to get certified.
6. ENJOY THE SUN SAFELY
It may be the end of summer, but the sun is still hot in many parts of the state. Remember to apply sunscreen before hitting the outdoors and don’t forget to reapply throughout the day.
Intermountain dermatologists note sunscreen or sunblock isn’t just for going to the pool or hiking outdoors but anytime you’re out in the sun. Doctors say sun damage now can lead to serious problems down the road.
“People don’t realize that even though you may heal from a sunburn and be fine a week later it can lead to melanoma and other skin cancers years later,” said Bryce Desmond, DO, dermatologist at Intermountain Healthcare. “That’s why it’s vital to make protective measures a part of your daily routine.”
And, don’t forget to stay hydrated.
A simple trick, according to Ashley Hagensick, Intermountain sports dietitian, is to carry a water bottle so you can take drinks throughout the day.
Even a small amount of sodium can help your cells better absorb fluids, said Hagensick. The recommendation is about 110-220mg per eight ounces of fluids. Sports drinks can also do the same things and add electrolytes when consumed in moderation.
7. SAFELY ENJOY THE GREAT OUTDOORS
People headed to the backcountry, with limited access to phone service and emergency help need to be prepared.
“Go with a group of people and know their level of ability,“ said Adam Balls, MD, chair of the emergency department at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. “Falls leading to sprains and broken bones are some of the most common accidents hikers face, which may land them in our emergency department.”
Dr. Balls also recommends checking the weather before leaving, sharing your travel plans and locations with a family member and most importantly pack a first aid kit.
8. STAY SAFE FROM COVID-19
People are urged to wear a mask or face covering when in a public setting and if they can’t social distance from other people. Those on a trail or in a popular outdoor area should still have a mask on-hand for when they can’t keep more than six feet away from others.
For high-risk individuals, clinicians advise avoiding high-risk areas, maintain six-foot distance from others, wearing a face covering, and limiting physical interactions with other individuals not living in your household.
Accidents Happen – We are Here for You
Accidents are never planned. If you do happen to have a medical emergency, you should first call 9-1-1, go to the emergency department and do not delay treatment.
Whether you’re boating in a lake, hiking the trails, off-roading in the mountains, or enjoying the perfect barbeque, with a little precaution and preparation a safe Labor-day weekend is just around the corner.