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Keep Safe and Have a Great Summer



Summer Injuries and Emergency Room Visits are Often Avoidable; Stony Brook Medicine Trauma Experts Offer Tips to Keep Long Islanders Safe


STONY BROOK, NY, JULY 1, 2015 – For many, the summer months – when school is out and families take vacations – mean lots of fun in the sun. But with all the pleasures of the season comes injuries and increased visits to the emergency department.

“During the summer, we treat more patients with injuries from burns, drownings, boating accidents, and motor vehicle crashes, than at any other time of the year,” says James Vosswinkel, MD, Chief of Trauma, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical Care, Stony Brook Medicine. “We want Long Islanders to get out and enjoy the warm summer months, but to take a moment to first think about safety and precautionary measures they can take when planning outdoor activities. Many of the accidents and deaths that we see are avoidable.”

Watch Fireworks from a Distance, Don’t Set Off at Home, and Practice Outdoor Fire Safety Tips:  Nearly 10,000 Americans are injured by fireworks each year, according to the National Council of Fireworks Safety. Most of these injuries occur during the Fourth of July holiday and include serious burns, loss of fingers, and blindness.

“Each year, we treat adults and children injured by fireworks,” says Steve Sandoval, MD, Director of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center, Stony Brook Medicine. He recommends enjoying public firework displays, which are handled by professionals, from a safe distance – rather than setting them off at home.

And summertime burns also result from outdoor grills, both charcoal and propane, which cause hundreds of injuries and thousands of fires every year. “In addition, we treat at least a few injuries from fire pits and campfires every summer,” says Dr. Sandoval. Fire safety tips include:

  • Keep a bucket of sand and/or a garden hose nearby in case the fire grows.
  • Place the fire pit away from trees, branches and foliage in order to prevent catching fire.
  • Be sure your BBQ is well maintained and cleaned regularly.

Dr. Sandoval reminds Long Islanders that flammable liquids, like lighter fluid or gasoline should never be used to start a fire. “Unfortunately, the Burn Center treats flash burns to the face and torso when these agents have been used,” Dr. Sandoval advises.

Closely Supervise Children around Fires:  Around outdoor fires, Dr. Sandoval advises that children should be far enough away to prevent a burn injury and remember to keep all barbecue accessories, including charcoal, lighter fluid, propane gas tanks well out of the reach of kids.

If Outside, Sunscreen is a Must:  Sun exposure without protection can lead to sunburns and an increased risk of skin cancer. “There is no safe level of sun exposure. If you are outside, you need sunscreen. Period,” says Maribeth Chitkara, MD, Pediatric Hospitalist, Stony Brook Children’s. She advises:

  • Apply at least one ounce (much more than most people use) of sunscreen every few hours.
  • Wear swim shirts to protect upper body without having to continuously apply sunscreen.
  • Select a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and make sure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid tanning beds, where exposure to rays is approximately 50 times stronger than from direct sun.
  • Spray tanning does not provide sun protection – sunscreen should still be worn.

Keep a Watchful Eye on Swimming Children:  Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury and death for children ages one to four, and drowning can occur in as little as two inches of water. “Parents should know that children can drown without making a sound, and that drowning deaths can occur even when children are left unattended for just a few minutes,” says Dr. Vosswinkel.

Kristi L. Ladowski, MPH, Injury Prevention & Outreach Coordinator Stony Brook Trauma Center, provides the following water safety tips for people of all ages:

Tips to Keep Young Children Safe during Water Activities (at the pool, beach, etc.):

  • It’s all about supervision: always know where your children are and never leave them alone near water, not even for a second
    • Designate a “water watcher” when children are swimming. The “water watcher” should not engage in any social distractions (conversation, phones, reading, etc.), they should only be watching the children in the pool for a set amount of time.  Rotate the “water watcher” position so that the supervision remains fresh. 
    • Install physical barriers to keep children out of pool/spa areas: fences that children cannot climb with self-latching doors
    • Install door and/or pool alarms to notify you if a child is in or near the pool/spa
    • Do not use flotation devices (water wing, floaties) as a substitute for supervision
    • An adult should always be within arm’s reach of infant and toddlers when they are in or around water
      • If a child goes missing, check the water first
      • Keep pools and spas covered when not in use, empty all other containers of water after use (buckets, inflatable pools)
      • Remove all toys from in and around the pool when not in use

Water Safety Tips for Adults and Older Children:

  • Never swim alone, use the buddy system
  • If swimming in open bodies of water (oceans and lakes), only swim in designated areas and obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards
  • Do not dive into open bodies of water
  • Never swim under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Know how to safely get out of rip currents.  If you’re caught in a rip current:
    • Stay calm
    • Don’t fight the current
    • Escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline (parallel to shore). When free of the current, swim at an angle— away from the current—toward shore.
    • If you are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water. When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
    • If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, call or wave for help.

Water Safety Tips for


  • Learn to swim
  • Learn CPR
  • Keep a cell phone nearby to call for help if needed
  • Take a water safety and rescue course
  • Keep rescue equipment nearby (life-saver ring, shepherd’s hook)
  • Wear a life jacket when boating. In 2014, 78 percent of boating deaths were caused by drowning and 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket. 

Alcohol and Water Don’t Mix:  According to the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, alcohol can impair judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. For boaters, intoxication can lead to slips on deck, falls overboard, or accidents at the dock.

“Alcohol impairs judgment and increases risk-taking, a dangerous combination for swimmers,” says Dr. Vosswinkel. “Even experienced swimmers may venture farther than they should and not be able to return to shore, or they may not notice how chilled they’re getting and develop hypothermia. Even around a pool, alcohol can have deadly consequences. Inebriated divers may collide with the diving board, or dive where the water is too shallow.”


“Overall, the good news is that many injuries that commonly occur during the summer are avoidable – or at least the risk of serious injury can be significantly reduced – if recommended safety precautions are taken,” says Dr. Vosswinkel. “We encourage Long Islanders to keep safe and have a great summer!”

“But if an accident does occur, call 911 and go to the nearest emergency room,” says Dr. Vosswinkel.

About Stony Brook Medicine

Long Island’s premier academic medical center, Stony Brook Medicine represents Stony Brook University’s entire medical enterprise and integrates Stony Brook’s health-related initiatives: education, research and patient care. It encompasses Stony Brook University Hospital, the five Health Sciences schools — Dental Medicine, Health Technology and Management, Medicine, Nursing and Social Welfare — as well as the major centers and institutes, programs and more than 50 community-based healthcare settings throughout Suffolk County. To learn more, please visit

Reporter Contact:                              
Elizabeth Streich
Follow us on Twitter @sbunewsdesk and @StonyBrookMed    



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