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With adventure in every corner, the Flathead Valley is a hotbed for thrill seekers of all kinds. Every year, adventurists such as climbers, whitewater rafters, mountain bikers, and hikers take to the mountains, lakes, rivers and trails to feel the adrenaline rush that they crave. But with every adventure comes great risk.

Each summer, the Emergency Department at Logan Health Medical Center (LHMC) sees a dramatic uptick in both visits and trauma cases. In 2022, there was a 21.2% increase in emergency visits in June through August as compared to the three months prior. During the peak month of July, the department treated 2,877 patients.

The best way to keep yourself out of the emergency room this summer is to follow safety guidelines for the activities you take part in. Always plan ahead and understand the risks involved in what you are doing. Tell others where you are going, especially if you are recreating alone. Pay attention to the weather and wear proper clothing. Bring enough food and water if you plan to be out for long periods of time.

If you are hiking or biking in Bear Country, make sure you have bear spray. Bear encounters may seem rare, but they do happen. It’s important to always be safe near the edges of cliffs and steep embankments. Every year many hikers and bikers are rescued from the trails because of fall-related injuries.

When on the water, make sure children are always wearing a life jacket, and always keep an eye on them to make sure they are safe. A water-related accident could happen in seconds. “Swift water is especially dangerous in our area,” says Joy Fortin, Manager of the Trauma Department at Logan Health Medical Center. “It’s important to know the water conditions and what is safe to be around.” There have been multiple preventable deaths related to swift water in the past few years. Be sure to know your own swimming abilities and only swim where you are comfortable.

Every year there are numerous ATV-related injuries that leave people in bad shape. Always make sure you wear proper protective equipment while riding – a motorcycle helmet and glasses/goggles. Be sure that the ATV is properly fitted to your size. “Kids should never be riding a full-sized ATV,” says Fortin. “We see significant crush injuries every year because they roll on top of them.”

Helmets are especially important for motorcycles and bikes of all kinds. Fortin says it’s essential for mountain bikers to wear helmets with the full cage, protecting riders’ faces. Road bikers should always wear a helmet, although the traditional helmet should cover them properly. That goes for skateboarders and roller skaters as well.

The LHMC emergency department has also seen a very large uptick in e-bike related injuries over the years. “We’re definitely seeing a lot more e-bikes,” continues Fortin. “A lot of people aren’t used to them and don’t realize that they go much faster. Definitely wear a helmet at all times and know how to control the e-bike and how to stop. Always make sure you know how to use it properly before going out and trying it for the first time in a hazardous area.”

Lastly, always make sure you wear a seatbelt when traveling by car to your destination. “Not wearing seat belts are directly related to a decrease in mortality,” says Fortin. “The vehicle is built to protect you. When you’re ejected from a vehicle at a high rate of speed, the vehicle cannot protect you.  If you stay within it, you’re more likely to have less severe injuries.”

We all want to have fun this summer, but following safety guidelines and being careful can ensure that we can get back out there to do the things we love. Let’s all have a safe summer!