Summer First-Aid Essentials
Jul 17, 2020 Cedars-Sinai Staff
It's not uncommon for summer fun to take a turn. Whether you fall on a slippery rock at the tide pools, deal with seasonal allergies or come face to face with a buzzing bee, being prepared can make the difference between some minor discomfort and spending hours in the ER.
"Most summertime injuries are easily treated with simple first aid," says Dr. Sam Torbati, co-chair of Emergency Medicine at Cedars-Sinai. "The key is to have a stocked kit with critical supplies with you while you're out, not in your hall closet or sitting in your car."
Sam S. Torbati, MD
Sam S. Torbati, MD
Summer first-aid essentials
Playing in the sunshine is good for both body and soul. Unfortunately, if you get injured during these active pursuits and you aren't prepared with on-the-spot treatments, that could be the end of your summer fun.
So, before you head out on that epic hike or trip to the beach, make sure your backpack is stocked with these first-aid essentials:
- Premade first-aid kit
While premade kits probably don't have everything you need, they do tend to cover the basics—gauze, bandages, tape, antibiotic ointment and alcohol pads.
Benadryl is the frontline treatment for dangerous allergic reactions. This powerful drug not only quiets allergic reactions to bug bites and stings, but it can also help soothe seasonal allergies.
- Hydrocortisone cream
A critical defense against almost anything that itches, hydrocortisone is a must-have item for any summer first-aid kit. A bonus: If you can stop the itch, you won't scratch, and that can reduce the risk of a secondary infection.
If you have a child or family member with severe allergies, bring your EpiPen with you on every outing.
Water plays a key role in avoiding heat illness and dehydration. But Dr. Torbati says it's important to pack enough water, not just for drinking but also for cleaning a fresh wound, or even a piece of fruit.
Make sure your kit is equipped with pain-relieving medication, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. And if you or someone in your family has a chronic condition, or requires daily medication, make sure you have extra medication packed.
During summer in California, few things are more essential than sunscreen. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and make sure to reapply generously.
- Insect repellent
Insect bites not only itch and sting, they can also bust open and get infected. To protect yourself against the bite, look for insect sprays that contain 30% DEET—and try to stay indoors during dawn and dusk when critters are most active.
- Baby wipes
"Baby wipes can be helpful for cleaning wounds and wiping things clean," Dr. Torbati says.
- A tick kit
"We have ticks in Southern California, so it's important to be prepared with tick tweezers and magnifying glass or a specialized tick kit," Dr. Torbati says.
Don't want to vomit during your boating excursion? Pack some Dramamine.
- Feminine hygiene products
Besides their obvious uses, these products can act as remarkable first-aid tools. Tampons double as handy cotton devices to stop nosebleeds. And pads can play a critical role in wound management. Just place it over the wound and wrap with gauze or a bandage.
Strategies to stay healthy
In addition to protecting yourself against the standard summer hazards, it's important to engage in safe practices as it relates to curbing the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Spending time outdoors can help reduce the chances you'll be exposed, if you can follow a few simple rules:
- Wash your hands
"Wash your hands frequently," says Dr. Torbati. "If you don't have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer—at least until you can get to a proper sink."
- Wear a mask
Wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of droplets and secretions.
- Practice physical distancing
Maintaining at least 6 feet between yourself and others can help prevent virus-containing droplets from entering your system.