For many people, summer is the most enjoyable part of the year. With warm weather and blue skies, it can be the perfect season to spend time with family and friends. The greater Los Angeles area offers a broad range of opportunities for summer fun, including hiking trails, camping, picnics and grills, and activities at the beach.
However, many of these these activities can come with a risk of injury or illness. Hospitals and emergency rooms often overflow with patients at this time of year. Doctors and other medical providers are often unable to see their patients on short notice, making it difficult to access their services when they’re needed most.
Finding quick and affordable access to a doctor can be challenging. This is why urgent care facilities like UrgentMED have become so important for healthcare access. In this guide we’ll focus on six common summer injuries and illnesses, and explain how the experienced healthcare teams at UrgentMED can help handle these situations.
1. Sunburns and Sun Poisoning
If California is known for one thing, it’s the year-round sunshine. On the Southern California coast, daytime summer temperatures can average 70° Fahrenheit. But during extraordinary heat spells in recent years, triple-digit temperatures have been recorded around Los Angeles. Needless to say, if you plan to spend summer days out in the sun, adequate sun protection is not just helpful, but essential. Sunburns are a common injury that, in the worst cases, can turn a fun day into a medical visit.
What is Sunburn?
Sunlight is filled with ultraviolet (UV) rays which can cause damage to the skin. Sunburn happens when you are exposed to direct sunlight for an extended period, without adequate protection like shade or sunscreen. When exposure to UV rays goes beyond a certain threshold, it damages the skin’s outer layer. Your immune system triggers a natural inflammatory reaction, which typically results in these symptoms:
- Redness/reddish patches on the skin
- Swelling in the exposed areas
- Peeling off the outer skin layers
- Mild pain or discomfort
How Long Does it Take to Get a Sunburn?
The actual time for sunburn to develop will vary depending on a wide range of factors. Depending on the season and time of day, you could get a severe sunburn in under 15 minutes. In different conditions, it could take hours.
One factor that can affect your rate of sunburn is your skin complexion. People with a darker complexion have more melanin, which helps protects the skin from UV radiation. Likewise, people with a pale complexion tend to get sunburns faster, because their skin has a lower level of melanin. For this reason, White and East Asian populations are generally more vulnerable to UV damage than people from African, South Asian, and Middle Eastern ethnic groups.
When Should You Seek Urgent Care?
Mild cases of sunburn, while rather uncomfortable, can be handled with home care. More severe cases of sunburn are called sun poisoning. This can occur if you have sensitive skin and have been exposed to UV radiation for a long period. Similar to an allergic reaction, the effects of sunburn may take a few hours to appear.
You should seek medical attention at an urgent care facility if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Blistering and inflammation across a large part of the body
- Extreme pain that is almost unbearable
- Sign of a fever, above 100.4° Fahrenheit, with chills
- Nausea, headache, vision problems, or confusion
- Severe dehydration and dizziness
Reducing the Risk of Sunburn
Whenever you go out in the sun with exposed skin, you stand a risk of getting some form of UV burn damage. Here are a few tips to help you mitigate these effects:
- Always wear sunscreen, preferably with UVA and UVB protection and an SPF rating of at least 30.
- UV radiation is generally strongest between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Limit your exposure to direct sunlight during those hours if possible.
- Wear a hat, long-sleeved clothes, and shades to reduce your body’s exposure to sunlight.
- Pay attention to the daily forecast of UV levels reported by the National Weather Service, known as the UV Index.
Long-Term Risk From Sunburns
A severe sunburn can take days or even weeks to heal properly. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can lead to premature aging and wrinkles and permanent damage or scarring over time. But the most serious long-term risk is skin cancer. With five cases of severe sunburns, your risk of skin cancer will almost double. Skin cancer is extremely common in America, particularly in hot, dry climates like Southern California.
The CDC estimates that one in five Americans will get some form of skin cancer by the age of 70. Wearing adequate sunscreen can reduce the risk of skin cancer by about 40%.
Prevention is the best form of defense against cancers, so be sure to protect yourself from UV exposure this summer. If you still get a severe sunburn, visit one of our nearby UrgentMED locations for reliant urgent care, even if it is after your primary care provider’s usual office hours (even as late as 7:00 – 8:00 PM). You don’t even need to make an appointment!
2. Heat-Related Syndromes
In our explanation of infrared (IR) radiation versus ultraviolet (UV) radiation, we explained that IR does not cause radiation damage. But the heat we experience from sunlight can affect us in other serious ways. Heat-related illnesses happen as a combination of three factors:
- High ambient temperatures
- Physical activity
- Not staying hydrated
Your body temperature rises during physical activity, so your body sweats to keep that temperature at a safe level (97–99° Fahrenheit). But this sweating and high heat result in a loss of fluids. If you don’t drink enough water to compensate for this, your body starts to suffer from dehydration and heat stress. Heat-related illnesses are broadly divided into three forms: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat strokes.
Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat illness. This typically does not require any medical attention. Symptoms include painful cramps in your muscles (often the legs), intense sweating and moderate fatigue. You can treat heat cramps simply by discontinuing any physical activity and moving to a shaded area for some rest. Remove excess clothes if possible and hydrate with cool water or sports drinks. Slowly stretching your muscles can help reduce the cramping as well.
Heat exhaustion is a more severe form of heat illness that may require you to see a physician at an urgent care facility. In addition to symptoms like muscle cramps, you may also experience:
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Severe fatigue, weakness and headaches
- Fever above 100.4° Fahrenheit
Heat exhaustion is caused by extreme exposure to heat and sunlight, combined with a severe loss of fluids. In these cases, your body loses its ability to cool itself. If you spend too much time hiking or playing sports on a very hot sunny day, you may end up suffering from heat exhaustion.
Basic first aid can be administered at home. This includes resting in a cool environment, removing excess clothes, and hydrating with fluids that replenish your body’s lost electrolytes. If the symptoms persist even after taking these steps, you should visit an urgent care clinic. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress into heat stroke, which is a life-threatening condition.
Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness and is considered a medical emergency. In addition to the symptoms of heat exhaustion, a person experiencing heat stroke may also experience dry skin, a fever above 103° Fahrenheit, a rapid heart rate, confusion, lethargy and a mental status near unconsciousness.
If someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Move them to a cool place, remove their clothes and apply ice packs to bring down their body temperature. Offer fluids if they are able to drink.
How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion
In most cases, heat exhaustion can be minimized with the following precautions:
- Try to avoid strenuous activities between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM, the hottest part of the day.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water or sports drinks.
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing, preferably breathable fabrics like cotton and linen.
- Take a swim or shower to cool down, or spray water on your body and clothes.
- Avoid alcohol consumption, especially during daytime activities outdoors.
It’s important to take these preventative measures and keep an eye out for any signs of heat exhaustion during the summer. Visit an UrgentMED clinic if you experience mild to moderate symptoms.
3. Sports Injuries
Summer is an ideal time for many outdoor sports, such as swimming, hiking, surfing and skateboarding. While an active lifestyle is good for your health, it also comes with an elevated risk of physical injuries. Summertime spots bring an influx of patients to UrgentMED clinics, with many of them experiencing cuts, bruises, sprains, and even bone fractures.
When Should You Seek Urgent Care?
Cuts and Wounds
Minor cuts and bruises can be treated at home using antiseptics and bandages. However, you should visit a doctor or nurse practitioner at your local UrgentMED clinic if:
- The wound is deep (but non-life-threatening)
- The wound contains dirt or foreign objects
- You are not vaccinated against tetanus
- You develop a fever of 100.4° Fahrenheit or higher
- The treated wound becomes infected
Sprains and Fractures
Sprains, dislocations, and fractures are common forms of sports injuries. If you suspect you have a sprain or fracture, you should visit to a nearby urgent care clinic for further evaluation. It’s a good idea to seek medical care if:
- You cannot stand up or walk
- You cannot fully move an arm, leg, or joint
- There is swelling or other visible deformities in the injured limb
- The pain is quite severe and doesn’t go away
- You have back pain, numbness, or weakness in a limb
The doctor may suggest X-rays or scans to investigate the extent of injury to your bones. At an UrgentMED urgent care location, we offer X-ray facilities for all basic sports-related injuries. For sprains and fractures, you may require splints or casts to allow the bone to heal. In case of a wound, you may also require tetanus booster shots to prevent infection.
If you play any kind of sports regularly, your body is at risk of a chronic injury. These arise due to increased stress on a particular limb or body part due to repetitive physical stress. Stress fractures, back pain issues, and shin splints are common forms of chronic sports injuries.
The services you receive at one of our urgent care locations may include pain medication or anti-inflammatory drugs. For more advanced cases, the urgent care physician will usually recommend consulting a specialist for surgery or physical therapy.
Reducing the Risk of Sports Injuries
- Use appropriate protective gear at all times, including helmets and pads.
- Perform warm-ups before the start of a game.
- For high-intensity/collision sports, stay in shape and practice frequently.
- Keep a first aid kit close by during any strenuous physical activity.
4. Burn Injuries
Summer is the time for barbecues and family get-togethers, but this also brings an increased risk of accidental burns. Not only can burns be incredibly painful, but they can also lead to further health complications, even when they seem insignificant. Burns are categorized into four types:
First-degree burns are restricted to the outer layer of the skin at the point of contact. You have probably experienced this when touching hot water or a hot pan for a few seconds. This type of burn can cause some mild redness, swelling and pain, but this should last no longer than a couple of days.
Minor first-degree burns can be treated at home using a cool compress, burn medications such as lotions or ointments, and over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen. If the pain does not go away even after two days, you should consult an urgent care physician.
Extensive contact with hot water, an open flame or hot objects for more than a few seconds can cause second-degree burns. The outer layer and second layer of the skin are damaged in this type of burn. Some chemicals and electrocution can also cause second-degree burns.
Symptoms include severe blistering, deep red skin, swelling, discoloration, and irregular patching in the wound. Smaller second-degree burns can be treated at home using a cool compress, antibacterial creams, non-sticky dressings (changed daily), and pain medication. However, you should immediately consult an UrgentMED center if:
- The burn area is larger than three inches in size
- The burn is on or close to the face, groin, buttocks, hands/feet, or a major joint
- You have a fever
- The wound is oozing
- You experience severe or escalating pain
Third- & Fourth-Degree Burns
Third- and fourth-degree burns are serious injuries that may extend beyond the skin into the muscles, tissues, and even bones. In these cases you should 911 immediately. These burns must be treated promptly to avoid serious health complications or even death.
When Should You Seek Urgent Care?
Urgent care clinics like UrgentMED can handle non-life-threatening first- and second-degree burn injuries. These cases don’t require a visit to an emergency room or hospital; this step should be taken for major burns only. UrgentMED gives you faster access to a doctor without a long queue or wait time—and no need to make an appointment. Next time you or a loved one suffers from a non-life-threatening burn injury pay a visit to our nearest urgent care clinic.
Reducing the Risk of Burns While Grilling
- Pay extra care and attention when lighting the grill.
- Use mitts, tongs and other grilling tools at all times.
- Keep other people (especially children) away from the grilling area.
- Minimize your alcohol consumption while operating the grill.
5. Insect Bites
Insects are often unavoidable in the long California summers, especially during picnics, hikes and camping trips. While most common insects are harmless, some bug bites can cause pain, allergic reactions or more serious health complications. It’s a good idea to learn about the different types of insect bites and stings. Correctly identifying a bug bite can help determine whether you can treat it at home, or if you need to visit an urgent care center.
Types of Insect Bites and Stings
Most insect bites generally lead to minor pain or itching for a short while, and do not require any special care. However, all of the following insects should be taken more seriously:
For most people, bee stings are simply a painful nuisance. But those who have an allergy to bee stings may experience pain and swelling around the sting area, swelling at the mouth/throat, hives, rashes, and severe breathing trouble.
While the actual bite of a mosquito simply causes irritation and itching, it can bring exotic and deadly viruses. If a mosquito bite is followed by fever, nausea, rash, or headaches, you should visit a doctor.
Most spiders don’t bite humans, but two species in the US are known for their serious bites.
- The black widow has a red hourglass pattern on a black body. Its venomous bite can cause high blood pressure and even seizures.
- The brown recluse is a pale brown color. Its bite can put blisters on your skin and may even turn it black with toxins.
If you receive a bite from either of these species, visit an emergency room as soon as possible.
Ticks don’t pose a threat of injury, nor are they venomous, but their bites can spread diseases into your body. Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are both well-known tick-borne diseases. Sometimes, part of the tick’s body can stay stuck to you when you try to remove it. This can cause itching and other side effects.
Similar to bees, a single bite from a fire ant may only cause mild pain. However if you are stung repeatedly by many fire ants, the toxin buildup can lead to a severe allergic reaction, such as hives, breathing trouble and dizziness.
When Should You Seek Urgent Care?
A healthcare provider at a reliant urgent care center can provide high-quality medical care for non-life-threatening conditions. If your insect bite is venomous, or causing a severe allergic reaction and trouble breathing, you should visit the emergency room instead. In all other situations, when you are unsure about an insect bite or have minor lingering side effects, urgent care is a smart option.
Diarrhea is not a disease in itself, but rather a symptom of a stomach infection by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. In the summertime, people can often get diarrhea while on vacation — a condition known as traveler’s diarrhea. This can happen in many ways:
- Eating contaminated or improperly cooked food (at restaurants, street food vendors, etc.)
- Drinking contaminated or improperly sanitized water or juices
- Congregating in public areas with a high risk of person-to-person contact
Norovirus, Salmonella, and E. Coli are common germs that cause diarrhea and other food-poisoning symptoms like nausea and vomiting. These symptoms are particularly dangerous during the summer as they can lead to excessive loss of fluids and dehydration. You should visit your nearest urgent care clinic if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Loose motion more than three times per day
- Traces of blood in your stool
- Constant vomiting
- Fever and headaches
- Abdominal cramps
For children or seniors, any case of diarrhea should be taken seriously. Consult a doctor at the nearest UrgentMED medical clinic for professional advice and treatment. You can either walk in without an appointment or speak to our desk staff ahead of your visit for the best service.
Reducing the Risk of Diarrhea
There is no foolproof way to prevent food contamination and diarrhea. But you can take a few steps to reduce your risk, especially while on vacation:
- Avoid drinking water from questionable sources
- Rely on bottled water and juices
- Drink boiled water, tea, or coffee
- Avoid eating food at street vendors
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly
Choose UrgentMED for Your Summertime Urgent Care Needs
A visit to the emergency room or hospital should only be reserved for severe and life-threatening conditions. For all other cases, an urgent care facility is a great choice. UrgentMED offers a variety of health exams, non-surgical procedures, minor surgical procedures diagnostic testing and in-house pharmacy services.
UrgentMED clinics are located all over the Los Angeles area and across Southern California. Each location is walk-in friendly and accepts a variety of insurance plans—and offers affordable rates for uninsured patients. If you need quick medical attention for non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses, without a long wait time, visit your nearest UrgentMED clinic today.