Summertime provides a chance to get outdoors – especially this year as the pandemic winds down. Intermountain Healthcare trauma experts are reminding Utahns about the importance of staying safe when out in Utah's outdoors – or just out riding their bikes or running in their neighborhood.
Intermountain hospitals have seen a 9% increase in trauma-related incidents this year compared to 2020, as people stop quarantining due to the COVID pandemic and are seeking to enjoy more outdoor activities.
Here are five ways to plan ahead for a safe summer:
1. Wear a helmet
One of the most important items to have for kids, and adults, is a good-fitting helmet.
"People involved in accidents wearing helmets are far more likely to survive and get back on that bike, scooter, or ATV. Those who don't wear a helmet end up with a longer recovery time or don't recover at all," said Dr. David Hasleton, Intermountain's senior medical director of emergency medicine and trauma operations.
Utah has more traumatic brain injuries among children than almost any other state in the country, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control. Simply wearing a helmet, even for short rides, goes a long way in keeping everyone safe.
Also, don't forget to check the expiration date of all helmets. Most helmets are designed to last about two to five seasons, and only one impact – similar to airbags in a car.
2. Wear other safety gear
Don't stop at a helmet. Get the safety gear needed for the activity. Utah Department of Health data shows that a child is 1,000 times more likely to be injured riding on an ATV than riding in a car.
"Goggles, over-the-ankle boots, gloves, sturdy full-length pants, and a long-sleeved shirt are all great at helping to protect you if you take a fall," said Jessica Strong, community health manager at Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital.
3. Buckle up
Fatal car crashes nearly double during the summer months in Utah – and 2020 saw a 14-year-high for the state with 276 deaths. The most common contributing factor to roadway fatalities, according to the Utah Department of Transportation, is failure to buckle up.
In fact, in 2020, there were 61 unrestrained fatalities on Utah roads and 170 unrestrained serious injuries. Putting on a seatbelt takes seconds but saves lives.
4. Wear a life jacket
Rivers in Utah can run high, cold, and rapid at various times of the year. Drowning is the second leading cause of death among Utah children under the age of 14. Life jackets should be on everyone's gear list.
"Tragedies can happen in the blink of an eye," said Strong. "Children should always be supervised whenever they are in or around water, even when they are wearing a life jacket."
Experts at Primary Children's Hospital have these general water safety guidelines:
• Empty out kiddie pools or buckets of water at home after use.
• Have children wear a life jacket whenever near water.
• Never take your eyes off children in the water.
• While supervising, stay alert and avoid distractions.
• Teach children to swim, but remember, there is no substitute for supervision.
• Keep a telephone nearby in case of an emergency.
5. Prepare for anything – and everything – while in the outdoors
Utah's outdoors can be unpredictable. It's important to be prepared for any circumstances – and use common sense in Utah's mountains and backcountry.
Bring a friend or go with a group, especially if you're going to a remote area. Then tell people beforehand where you're going and when you will return. Food and water should be with you, even if you think you will only be outdoors for a little time. Take extra water or items to filter or disinfect water.
Dress appropriately for hiking and any potential weather changes. Pack extra clothes in your bag so you can add layers if needed. Sturdy shoes with good traction help to keep you from slipping injuries and wear pants to prevent contact with poison ivy or stinging nettle.
Equipment to consider bringing:
• Multi-tool or pocketknife.
• Something to start a fire, such as a good flint.
• Bandages and medical wrap.
• Tarp to stay dry or transport an injured person out of the woods.
• Space blanket to stay warm if temperatures drop.
• Splint to support a sprain or fractured bone.
• Weather radio.
• GPS tracker, rescue beacon or satellite phone if you're going to an area with no cell service.
• Mace or an air horn to scare off any bears.
If you are injured this summer, do not delay care. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. For more safety tips for kids, you can visit primarychildrens.org/safety.