Primary care is a year-round business. While people tend to focus on wintertime coughs, colds, and slip and fall injuries as the most common time to seek primary care in an urgent care clinic, summertime has its share of common illnesses, injuries, and conditions. Since 90% of urgent care clinics had wait times of less than 30 minutes in 2017, according to the Urgent Care Association, most patients can get back to the summer fun quickly. Here are five common reasons patients visit urgent care during the summer:
Many injuries are not serious enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room but nonetheless require treatment. For example, most people would suspect that winter is the most dangerous time of the year to drive. In fact, August produces more car accidents than any other month. These accidents can lead to minor injuries, such as strains, sprains, and broken bones, that necessitate visits to urgent care centers.
Another source of injuries during summer is sports. The most common sports injuries include ankle sprains, shin splints, tennis elbow, groin pull, and hamstring strain. While minor cases may be treated at home, these injuries often trigger a visit to a primary care doctor to make sure the injury is not a sign of something more serious, like a torn ligament.
Independence Day, in particular, produces a myriad of visits to urgent care, including alcohol-related injuries, sports injuries, and burns due to fireworks. Minor burns may be treated at home, but doctors recommend that burns larger than a few inches, or any burns near the eyes, nose, mouth, or ears be checked at an urgent care clinic.
Heat-related illnesses can arise from water depletion or salt depletion. Among heat-related illnesses, heat exhaustion is less serious than heatstroke, although either can be dangerous. Heat exhaustion is usually signaled by nausea, headache, fatigue, fainting, muscle cramps, sweating, and pale skin. The symptoms of heatstroke include headache, dizziness, dry skin, confusion, and seizure. Heat exhaustion is treatable at home or at an urgent care clinic; heat exhaustion is a medical emergency that may require a visit to an emergency room.
When plants are in bloom and animals shed, allergies follow. During summer the most common allergies are pollen, animal dander, insect stings, and dust stirred up by the hot, dry weather. Most allergies may be treated by an over the counter antihistamine. However, allergies that are not relieved by over the counter medicine, or allergies in people who are at risk of suffering anaphylaxis or asthma, may require medical treatment.
Food poisoning or foodborne illness covers any bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection that is carried by food. The most common forms of food poisoning include Salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter.
Summer is a common time for foodborne illnesses because typical barbecue foods, such as ground beef and chicken, are often contaminated by E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter bacteria from the animal itself during the slaughtering process. Under-cooked meat, or other dishes that have been contaminated by raw meat, can transmit those bacteria to diners. Additionally, summer barbecues and picnics often lack refrigeration. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth and reproduction. A mayonnaise-based salad that has been cross-contaminated with salmonella bacteria becomes a pathway to bacterial infection in the hot sun.
Symptoms of foodborne illnesses include cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. For adults, foodborne illness can typically be treated at home with lots of fluids and rest. However, for children, people with weakened immune systems, and seniors, a visit to urgent care may be needed to reduce the risk of complications from foodborne illnesses.
Skin rashes may have any number of causes. Some common causes during summer include dry skin, poison ivy, insect bites, and heat rash. Another form of skin condition, sunburn, is also more common during the summer. While these skin conditions may clear up at home, medical treatment may be sought for symptoms that do not subside after a few days.
In sum, summer is the time for outdoor activity and socializing with friends and family. However, summer can also be the time for visiting a primary care doctor when injuries, foodborne illnesses, heat-related illnesses, skin rashes, and allergies disrupt summer plans.