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Published on July 09, 2019

5 tips to avoid painful vacation memories
Vacations should not end with painful memories

There are lots of great places to enjoy on your Cape Cod vacation – the beach, the bike trail, a restaurant overlooking the water.

The hospital emergency room is not one of them.

Yet every summer, thousands of visitors pass through the ERs at Falmouth Hospital and Cape Cod Hospital, as well as local urgent care centers.

To help you avoid spending any of your vacation days in the ER this summer, we asked an expert – Elizabeth Kelley, RN, associate director of the emergency room at Cape Cod Hospital – how to make sure you only take home healthy Cape Cod memories. (And, hey, Cape residents, these tips apply to you, as well.)

  1. Wear your bike helmet (even if you’re a grown-up). “People are out of shape and haven’t been on a bike for years,” said Kelley. And if you fall, “your head is going to go first.” Riders don’t know the rules of the road for bicyclists and head out onto heavily traveled streets (Route 28 is the most dangerous, according to 2008 Barnstable County bike crash data.) Even on the Cape’s bike trails, there are cross roads, sand patches and tight curves. Cape bike shops often include a helmet in the rental, so ask for one and then make sure you wear it.
  2. Pack smart for the beach. No. 1: sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 or higher and lathering on “1 ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass” on an adult. No. 2: footwear. “On a lot of the beaches you are better off wearing your water shoes; there are shells and other things to cut your feet on – and we see nasty things in the wounds,” said Kelley. And No. 3: ear plugs, especially for kids or others prone to infections. When you get out of the water, “try to shake your head to get the water out of your ears right away,” Kelley said. That will help avoid swimmer’s ear or other infections.
  3. Learn how to drive in a rotary. “We (see) a lot more car crashes in the summer,” said Kelley. For one reason, there are a lot more cars. Cape weekday traffic in July is approximately twice what it is in January, according to 2014 Barnstable County traffic counts. And many of those drivers don’t know where they are going or have no idea how to approach a rotary. So, get your bearings and think about where you are going before you look at the GPS in traffic. And be patient. We’re all trying to get some place.
  4. Get in shape before your vacation. “We have an uptick in cardiac issues in people who are not in good shape and they are trying out all kinds of physical activity in the heat,” said Kelley. “Be aware of your surroundings and be aware of your capabilities. Start slow if you’re going to do something that involves physical activity and don’t be doing it after a couple of beers.” Which bring us to her last tip….
  5. Know when you’ve had enough. Summer partying is fun, but too much can lead to a fight or a fall or worse, said Kelley. “Drunk driving is absolutely an issue,” she said. Of the 25 traffic fatalities on the Cape in 2012, nine involved alcohol, according to the county’s Regional Substance Abuse Council. And that’s not counting drug-related crashes. Headed out for an evening? Try an alternative to driving. Ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber are available in much of the Cape and so are taxis. Also, the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority now has seasonal late-night service between Provincetown and Harwich.