Summer Safety: When To Go To The Emergency Room

After a year of lockdown, quarantine and social distancing, you’ve never been more ready to take advantage of the long summer days. We get it.

But before you grab your grilling apron, beach towel or hiking boots, it’s important to know that with many outdoor activities and beloved holiday traditions comes a spike in accidents and injuries. In fact, every year emergency departments across the country prepare for an annual surge in visits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 130 million emergency room visits in 2018, with a third of them happening during the summer months.

Learn more about what calls for a Band-Aid and a Popsicle — but also when emergency medical care is needed.


The more time you spend outside, the more susceptible you are to bites from beasts and bugs of all shapes and sizes.

Dog bites
A dog bite may need stitches if it’s deep. Consider seeking medical advice if it begins to show these signs of infection, even after washing it regularly:
• Redness
• Swelling
• Warmth
• Whitish-yellow discharge

Insect bites
For some people, insect bites and stings can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. Watch for symptoms, such as:
• Difficulty breathing
• Dizziness
• Swelling of the face
• Nausea
• Hives
• Diarrhea, stomach cramps

Broken bones and sprains

Whether you’re on the bike trail, trampoline or ballfield, there are endless ways to take a fall that results in a nasty twist or break. Get to your local emergency department if you:
• Are unable to move fingers with an arm injury or toes with a leg injury
• Experience heavy bleeding
• Have bone pushing through your skin or a visually out-of-place or misshapen limb


Grills, fire pits, campfires and, no surprise, fireworks are all hot spots for summertime burns. Any activity that involves fire or extreme heat in any form requires vigilance, distance and extreme caution.
Serious burns, burns to your eyes, mouth and hands, or burns that cover a large area, need emergency care. A few important notes before you head there:
• Do not remove clothing stuck to burned skin
• Do not put anything on the burn
• Keep burned areas elevated until you get to the emergency department to reduce swelling

Some sunburns can be severe (often referred to as “sun poisoning”). Watch for these symptoms:
• Dehydration
• Chills
• Confusion
• Headache
• High fever
• Nausea
• Severe pain


Running barefoot? Chopping a salad or summer fruits? A deep cut can happen in an instant. A wound likely needs a stitch or two if it’s:
• Bleeding enough to soak through bandages, even after applying direct pressure for five to 10 minutes
• Filled with debris like glass or gravel
• More than a half an inch long
• Ragged (rather than what looks like a clean cut)

Other wounds — such as animal or human bites or wounds with a dirty, rusty or pointed object — that go deep into the skin may not need stitches but could require other treatments such as a tetanus booster shot.


While most falls don’t land you in the emergency department, they can leave you with more than a goose egg. Be on the lookout for head injuries that may not be visible. Go to the emergency department if you see signs, such as:
• Balance problems
• Confusion, disorientation
• Loss of consciousness
• Nausea or vomiting
• Seizure

Food poisoning

Heat can wreak havoc on picnic food favorites. If cold foods aren’t kept cold and hot foods hot, dangerous bacteria invite themselves to things like potato salad and burgers. Signs of food poisoning can show up within hours of eating contaminated foods and will likely include:
• Abdominal pain and cramps
• Fever
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Watery or bloody diarrhea

If you are having severe or prolonged symptoms, it’s time to go to the emergency department.

When to forget about finding your keys and call an ambulance

Every second counts with certain injuries or conditions. Call an ambulance if you or a loved one experience:

When to forget about finding your keys and call an ambulance
Every second counts with certain injuries or conditions. Call an ambulance if you or a loved one experience:
• Chest pain
• Difficulty breathing
• Slurred speech
• Spinal injuries, such as from diving or jumping in water
• Swelling of the tongue or face from an allergic reaction
• Stroke symptoms, such as any new numbness or tingling

Having trained medical personnel come to you can make a lifesaving difference. Don’t forget to look for the closest emergency department in your community and have the address handy.

Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center
2001 Medical Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401

Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center
8118 Good Luck Road, Lanham, MD 20706

Amber Marshall, MD is Assistant Medical Director of LHDCMC’s Adult Emergency Department  
Michael Remoll, MD is Medical Director of LHAAMC’s Adult Emergency Department