Emergency room sees rise in sunburns and heat exhaustion cases

Emergency room sees rise in sunburns and heat exhaustion cases

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's not just hotels, parks and pools that are busy this time of year.

According to the emergency room doctors at Grand Strand Medical Center, they are also getting slammed during the summer months.

They see more injuries and patients starting in June and going through August, a period that closely correlates with students' summer break.

"So when school lets out here, and then again for when school lets out for most other states, we see a big uptick in the number of people who show up because there are more people in Myrtle Beach," explained Dr. Jon Pangia, director of emergency medicine at Grand Strand Medical Center. "Every summer we have to bring in special physicians, PAs, nurse practitioners and nurses just to help us keep up with this temporary increase of people showing up in our emergency department."

Pangia says during the summer months they will see all types of injuries and emergency cases, but there are some common injuries that they see an influx of every year. Patients wanting relief from a sunburn is one of them.

"Sunburns can be so bad, your skin can even blister," Pangia said. "It's technically a second-degree burn. It's very painful."

According to Pangia, that is typically a result of people not wearing sunscreen at all, or they did not reapply sunscreen after spending several hours out in the sun.

"The sun is a thermal nuclear explosion happening constantly, so when we go outside for long periods of time we're just exposing ourselves to that even more," he said. "There's not really much we can do except recommend some lotion and salves."

To prevent severe burns, Pangia recommends using sunscreen with the highest SPF and reapply after a few hours.

In addition to sunburns, the doctor said the ER will also see more patients being treated for heat exhaustion.

"So they start to feel exhausted - hence the name - because the body is making such a big effort to keep them cool," Pangia said. "Heat exhaustion can even turn into to heat stroke when the body is unable to keep up anymore. Then, they actually get a fever, which means their body is unable to keep their body temperature down in that extreme heat environment."

People not drinking enough water, not taking a break or drinking fluids that are not cool enough to keep the body temperature down can lead to heat exhaustion. Pangia said drinking too much water can also result in health problems.

With electrolytes, a patient can lower their sodium to a dangerous level, potentially causing harm. This happens when drinking too much water, but not enough electrolytes.

Pangia said people can drink sports drinks to help replenish their electrolytes.

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