By Julie Busch, M.D.
Family Medicine Specialist
St. Anthony’s Medical Center
A record-breaking summer for heat and humidity has finally ended, ushering in what is arguably the “best of the Midwest” seasons – autumn. But, while those traditional summer woes – sunburn, poison ivy, swimmer’s ear – are on the wane, there are a whole new set of ailments unique to the autumn season.
Bonfires, hayrides and Halloween all can provide your family physician with plenty of business. A little pre-planning and common sense can keep you and your family safe while you enjoy activities typical of the season.
Cool autumn nights are perfect for hayrides and bonfires, which can cause injuries needing medical attention. When on a hayride, know your driver. Make sure he or she has not indulged in a few celebratory drinks. The “don’t drink and drive” rule applies no matter what you are driving.
Children should not be allowed to run ahead, alongside or behind the wagon. Hay throwing is not a good idea. Just a miniscule piece of hay or debris in the eye can cause a corneal abrasion. It usually heals relatively quickly, but is quite painful.
Bonfires can cause burns simply from standing too close to the heat. You don’t need to come in contact with the flames to get burned – heat burns too. Smoke inhalation can cause breathing difficulties, especially in people with asthma. Stand downwind from the smoke, since it can irritate the skin and eyes.
Then, of course, there’s Halloween. Here are a few tips to keep your “trick-or-treaters” safe:
- Costumes should be light-colored, flame-retardant and decorated with reflective tape, to make children highly visible to motorists. Carrying a flashlight is a good idea.
- Props such as wands or swords should be made out of cardboard rather than wood, metal or plastic – sharp items are dangerous.
- Avoid masks that restrict vision – make-up is a good alternative – and avoid jack-o-lanterns illuminated by candles that can ignite costumes.
- Check your child’s candy or treats for torn packages, pinholes, funny odors and questionable appearance, and discard any candy that has been opened. Scrub fruit carefully and cut it into small pieces to detect foreign objects.
- Make sure an adult accompanies children at all times while trick-or-treating.
Don’t let an accident or injury spoil your family’s enjoyment of the season. A little prevention is worth a ton of cure.
Dr. Julie Busch, a family practitioner, is a member of St. Anthony’s Physician Organization. She practices at Kirkwood Family Medicine, 10296 Big Bend Blvd., 314-543-5943. For a referral to any St. Anthony’s physician, call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 1-800-554-9550.