With summer officially here, it’s easy to let one’s guard down and just kick back to enjoy a lazy afternoon by the pool, or out on the lake.

But summer in Louisiana brings its own challenges, especially when it comes to staying healthy while dealing with the heat and humidity.

“You should drink plenty of water and electrolyte solutions, such as Gatorade,” says Dr. Eric Daniel, the medical director of the emergency department at Rapides Regional Medical Center. “Wear loose-fitting clothes, a hat, short sleeves, shorts and remember to use sunscreen.”

Dr. Daniel says being able to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion early is critical.
“The early warning signs may be generalized fatigue and a headache. Your muscles may start cramping and you may also get abdominal cramps and have nausea,” he said.
“You should rest in a cool environment until you start feeling better and rehydrate yourself with water and electrolyte solutions.” 

If you do not improve or you begin vomiting, Dr. Daniel said a visit to the emergency department is needed for IV fluids.

And it doesn’t matter how fit you may be, heat exhaustion can strike anyone, he noted.
A common way to the beat the heat is swimming, but there are risks there, too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 10 people die each day from drowning. Many of these victims are children, as an average of 390 children under the age of 14 drown annually. The majority of these children are 5 or younger. Last year, 3,400 children 5 or younger were treated by emergency rooms.

Some tips to remember are:

  • Keep an eye on young children at all times.
  • Stay within arm’s reach at all times in and around the pool.
  • Do not swim near a drainage pipe or in a ditch, or near runoff or littered areas.
  • Do not swim in areas that have posted warning signs against swimming there.
  • Avoid swimming after heavy rains if at a lake or river.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Take swimming lessons.
  • Learn CPR.

Dr. Daniel said if you come upon a drowning victim, get the victim out of the water before calling 911 and remember that the victim could also have a head and/or neck injury.

“First, make sure you are capable of swimming and are able to get the victim out of the water,” he said. “You don’t want to become a victim as well.”

Another favorite way to beat the boredom of summer is to go joy-riding on ATVs.
“We see a lot of ATV injuries in the Emergency Department at Rapides and many of these involve children,” Dr. Daniel said.

According to ATVSafety.gov, from 2007-2010, Louisiana averaged nearly 14 ATV-related deaths a year.

In one eight-day span in May, three people – two adults and one child – died in Central Louisiana alone in ATV-related accidents. In both of these incidents, ATVs were being used illegally on public roadways.

Though, when operated properly, these vehicles can be used safely.

“Always wear a helmet, always supervise children if they are on them and never operate them under the influence of alcohol,” said Dr. Daniel.

The federal government recommends close supervision for children under the age of 16.

“In all accidents involving motorized vehicles we see more severe injuries when (the driver and passenger) are unrestrained,” he said. ”I’ve yet to see an ATV with a seatbelt.”