A Doctor’s Guide to Memorial Day Mishaps

A Doctor’s Guide to Memorial Day Mishaps

Updated August 2020

[This article was written with Dr. Avni Pandya, a doctor on Amwell.]

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer season, which means cookouts, beach days, and weekend trips. But while we’re all eager to get out into the warm weather this long weekend, outdoor activities come with an increased risk of injuries and accidents. Luckily, doctors on Amwell are here to help.

Dr. Avni Pandya offers you with some tips on how to overcome the most common Memorial Day accidents, including how to treat injuries at home, and when to see a doctor.

Grill Burns

There is nothing like the first cookout of the season, but after a long winter, even the best grill master is prone to a painful slip-up. Before you fire up your grill, remember to inspect it thoroughly. Make sure there are no gas leaks and clean up charcoal residue from last year's grill season. But if you do experience a flash burn or other grill-related burn, here’s everything you need to know about how to treat them:

Home Remedies: For first-degree and second-degree burns that affect the top layer of skin, you should cool the area by holding it under cold water for 10-15 minutes until the pain subsides. Don’t apply ice, break blisters or apply butter or ointment, as these can cause infections. You should then protect the burn with a sterile, non-adhesive bandage or clean cloth. You can treat the pain with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

See a doctor if the burn penetrates all layers of skin, if there are burn blisters larger than two inches, or if there is material oozing from the burn.  If the skin is leathery or charred looking, with white, brown, or black patches, this also indicates a more severe burn. You should take more precautions if the affected person is a child, infant, or senior.

Sun Burns

The sun never sleeps—even if it’s cloudy out—and nobody is too cool for sunscreen. These are words to live by this Memorial Day weekend. Dr. Pandya explains why:

Home Remedies: If you feel the tingling of a burn or see any sign of skin reddening on yourself or your child, get out of the sun and start treatment.   Take a cool shower or bath, and moisturize your skin with cream or lotion, preferably containing vitamin C and vitamin E. You can take ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation and pain from the burn but do not scrub, pick, peel or break skin or blisters.

See a doctor if your sunburn causes severe blisters or covers 20% or more of the body surface, such as a child’s whole back. Also, seek medical attention if you develop fever and chills, or become severely dehydrated.

Bug Bites

Nothing so small in size is capable of sending adults running more than bugs—and sometimes for good reason. Here’s what Dr. Pandya recommends to do if you get a little too close to some of these critters.

Home Remedies:   Most bug bites are harmless and may cause a small, localized itchy swelling that will go away within a few days. The insects that usually cause harmless bites are mosquitoes, bed bugs, biting flies, ants, most ticks, fleas, chiggers, mites, lice, and non-venomous spiders. If you notice a bug bite, first see what caused it. Then apply calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, or lidocaine containing topical gel to reduce the pain and itching. You should also take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain, and Benadryl to reduce itching.

See a doctor if you got bit by a dangerous bug, particularly venomous spiders, scorpions or ticks The most common tick infection in the U.S. is Lyme Disease, which results in a “bull’s eye” or target lesion at the site of the tick bite. Certain spiders, such as the black widow spider, can cause muscle spasms, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, fever, and chills. The brown recluse spider bite can cause a spreading, necrotizing wound with fever, chills, convulsions, and joint pain. If you suspect you have a bite from these agents, it is important to consult with a physician.

Food Poisoning

While enjoying a picnic or barbecue is one of the great traditions of Memorial Day weekend, getting sick from spoiled potato salad or an undercooked hamburger is one of the worst. Food left out for more than two hours can be a breeding ground for common bacteria that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In hot summer temperatures that reach the 90s, toss food that's been left for an hour.

Home Remedies: Food poisoning rapidly drains your body of fluids. To avoid dehydration, keep water by your bed and take a sip or two as often as you can keep it down.

See a doctor your stomach discomfort lasts for several days and is it is accompanied by fever, yellow skin, severe tenderness, persistent nausea or bloody stool. In some cases, food poisoning requires a hospital visit. But in order to know what level of care you need, you should have a video visit with a doctor online.

If you need additional medical advice on these or any other Memorial Day mishaps, doctors on Amwell are available 24/7/365 – even holidays!

Now is the time to try online!

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