General Health - Summer Accidents

Summer Holidays - Peak Time For Accidents

Christmas and New Year should be a time of celebration – and for most of us it is a happy holiday season. Unfortunately the fun and games can quickly turn to disaster. Traditionally this time is the busiest in accident and emergency units. Preventable ‘accidents’ are all too common.

Sometimes comparatively simple incidents can result in a hospital visit. Fathers and grandfathers, desperately trying to demonstrate their long departed expertise with newly acquired sports equipment (such as trampolines surf boards and cricket bats) are more likely to demonstrate their incompetence.

And recent well publicised events confirm that climbing ladders to place or remove decorations, or to clean leaves from roofs or guttering, can be an extreme sport and one fraught with danger.

Of course, traffic accidents continue to be a major cause of death and disability in Australia, particularly at this time of year.

All road deaths are a tragic waste of life. That so many young drivers, passengers and pedestrians have died on Australian roads is a cause of both great sadness and concern in our communities.

Various restrictions have been proposed for newly licensed drivers. As well, successive governments have sought to encourage greater use of public transport for both economic and environmental reasons. However, living in such a vast country it is inevitable we will continue to depend to a large degree on privately owned motor vehicles to travel around.

And with that need to travel comes the need to act carefully and responsibly on our roads.

The major causes of traffic accidents are all well documented – driving too fast, drink driving, and fatigue. Of these, probably the most difficult to control is driver fatigue. Certainly we can impose speed limits, provide random breath tests and legislate for the wearing of seat belts, but it’s very hard to make laws to keep us awake.

There are many factors which can contribute to feeling drowsy when driving. One which is often forgotten is medicines.

Of course, we all know alcohol can slow our reflexes even when we don’t actually feel tired. Many medicines can do this too; and taking certain medicines and drinking alcohol as well, even a small amount, can become a lethal cocktail.

When starting a new medicine, one prescribed by your doctor or one you buy without a prescription, always check with your pharmacist about the possible side effects; and ask especially if it’s likely to cause drowsiness. If you take a medicine to aid sleep, drowsiness sufficient to affect your driving skills may occur the following day.

And drowsiness is just one side effect that can affect our driving skills. Some medicines can make us dizzy, light-headed or faint. They can cause us to be angry or aggressive; to feel sick, shaky or unsteady and to have blurred or double vision. All these effects can make it unsafe for us to drive, ride or even walk!

If your medicine does affect your driving, ask your pharmacist if there is an alternative. For instance, if you get hay fever there are now effective medicines that won’t make you feel drowsy.

There are also times when missing a dose of your prescribed medicine might cause problems. For example, if your medical condition, such as asthma, epilepsy, anxiety, high blood pressure or diabetes, is not properly managed, a dangerous situation might result.