Kootenai | Kootenai Health | Issue 3, 2022

14 By Kristina Orrego Summer in the Inland Northwest finds most of us looking for every opportunity to enjoy the long days and sunshine. Fun in the sun might include swimming, hiking or bicycling. There’s no shortage of outdoor activities and recreational options, but topping the list is one important factor they all have in common: staying safe by taking steps to prevent injury. Kelly Bourland, RN, Kootenai Health’s injury prevention coordinator, said injury prevention is not to be taken lightly, because injuries can result in long-term consequences, especially head injuries. Wearing a helmet appropriate for your activity can mean the difference between a minor bump and a trip to the hospital. Wear the right gear Not all helmets are created equal. Helmets are generally designed for specific activities and take into account the rate of speed and likely areas of impact. This is why helmets for bicycling, snowboarding, dirt bikes and street bikes are different, and they each fit differently. “For example, a bicycle helmet should fit snugly all around with no spaces between the foam and head,” Kelly said. “The chinstrap should be centered under the chin; no more than one or two fingers should fit between the strap and chin. Be aware that there are different helmet sizes—such as toddler, child and youth—therefore, it’s best to try on helmets in person at the store.” When it comes to driving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility-terrain PLAY SAFE vehicles, it’s also important to wear the right clothing, which means longsleeved shirts, long pants and boots. “You shouldn’t be wearing flip-flops on an ATV,” Kelly said. “And I can’t emphasize enough the importance of wearing a helmet.” It is also important to drive within your abilities, stay away from alcohol while operating an ATV and stay on well-maintained trails. When hiking or off-roading, make sure someone outside of your group knows your schedule, route and when to expect your return. “If others know your route and schedule, they have an idea of where to look for you if something does happen,” Kelly said. During activities like boating, tubing and paddleboarding—anything involving water—wear a life jacket. Life jackets should fit tightly with all buckles latched. The life jacket should not rise above the wearer’s ears while arms are raised above the head in a “touchdown” signal. Kootenai Health is proud to take an active role when it comes to injury prevention. Volunteers give presentations every spring to children in kindergarten through second grade about helmet and water safety. “If the students have a helmet, we ask them to wear it so our volunteers can assess those helmets for damage and fit,” Kelly said. “If a child does not have access to a helmet or the helmet is a poor fit or damaged, we provide them with a new helmet at no cost. Helmets are purchased with grants through the Kootenai Health Foundation.” Kootenai Health’s water safety presentations emphasize the need for children to stay away from water unless accompanied by an adult, the importance of taking swimming lessons and learning to float. Kootenai Health partners with the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation to teach young children the importance of water safety with Josh the Baby Otter. “Hopefully it resonates with them and they remember what to do to stay safe,” said Kelly. Safety hub Visit KH.org/injuryprevention for additional resources, videos and information about injury prevention and community safety events. and Enjoy Summer