Summertime usually means an increase in outdoor activities which can lead to more injuries and trips to the emergency room. According to the Center for Disease Control the number of emergency department visits recently reached 129.8 million annually.  So when should you go? What can you do to prevent injury? Dr. Brian Boggs, Emergency Room Physician at Cape Canaveral Hospital answers some common questions.

When should you go to the emergency room?

The emergency room is open 24 hours a day for any type of medical problem; however, patients are prioritized based on vital signs, symptoms, past medical history, and age. Emergent medical problems, obviously, take higher priority than non-urgent problems. The emergency room is available for any medical problem but is specifically designed for more significant medical problems such as heart attacks, strokes, broken bones, etc.

What are common injuries that are seen?

We see all types of injuries including broken bones, lacerations, puncture wounds, and even stab and gunshot wounds. The most frequent injuries we see are from simple falls and motor vehicle collisions. With the advent of seat belt laws and airbags in most cars, the degree of serious injury is lessening, so always fasten your seat belts (even in the back seat)!

If you go, what should you take with you to the hospital?

To ensure the health care professionals who are taking care of you know everything they need to treat you safely and appropriately, please be able to communicate (1) medicine allergies, (2) current medications (including dosages, how often they are taken, and how long you have been taking them), (3) past medical history (including medical problems that are stabilized by medications you are taking), (4) past surgical history (including dates), and (5) a list of your doctors (including their phone numbers). Due to the fact this is often quite a lot of information, one of the best things that you can do is prepare a document with this information on it before you ever need to go to the emergency room.

What technologies are available in an emergency room?

One advantage of going to the emergency room is the technologies that are available. Advanced imaging studies (such as CAT scans, nuclear medicine imaging, and ultrasounds) are immediately available if the need exists. We are also able to obtain laboratory analysis of blood, urine, and other bodily fluids rapidly for assessment.

Do you have tips on preventing an injury/emergency, particularly while playing sports?

It is important to wear protective equipment that is specifically designated for such sports and activities since they are designed to minimize serious injury. A contusion is much more easily dealt with than a broken bone. A concussion is much preferred over a bleed in the brain. In addition, appropriate warm-ups and stretching are very important to minimize muscular and ligamentous injury.

What supplies should people have in a first-aid kit at home in case of injury?

Everyone should have the basic supplies on hand for minor problems. These include: bandages, antibiotic ointment, medical tape, sharp scissors, and cleaning supplies (designed for cleaning wounds). When cleaning an abrasion or laceration, simple soap and water are excellent. In addition, for those with allergies or other medial conditions that may require swift treatment, make sure you have access to life saving medication like epinephrine injectors, inhalers, and diphenhydramine.