Tips for where and how to treat common summertime injuries and illnesses

May 12, 2023 Swedish Health Team


 In this article:

  • Summer brings fun, sunshine – and some common injuries and illnesses.
  • Skip the emergency department for minor illness and injuries.
  • Getting the care you need is easy when you know your options.

Summertime is full of activity and adventure, from vacations and days at the pool to hikes, bike rides, and more. Minor injuries, scrapes, cuts, bites, and burns are common. Here’s where to go for care when you shouldn’t treat the issue at home.

1. Cuts and Scrapes

Some minor cuts and scrapes can be treated at home successfully while others need medical attention. Head to an urgent care where a provider may recommend small wounds be closed with stitches, and shallow wounds can be closed using sterile adhesive strips.

Other times you should head to urgent care include:

  • The injury is from a rusty or dirty object.
  • You were bitten by a human or animal.

If an injury is life-threatening, always call 911. Serious injuries should be treated in an emergency department. Examples of these include:

  • If a cut is spurting blood.
  • If a foreign object is stuck in your wound.
  • If the injury is from a bullet.
  • If the cut is on the face, eyelids, or genitals.
  • If the cut interferes with joint mobility.
  • If you are experiencing numbness or loss of sensation with the injury.
  • If you have secondary injuries like broken bones or head injuries.

 2. Burns

Grilling out and making s’mores around a campfire are classic summertime activities. There’s no doubt that both are fun, but safety needs to be a top priority whenever there is an open flame.

How to identify burns

There are three degrees of burns, each needing different care. Knowing how to identify burns will help you understand how to handle a burn if it happens to you or someone you are with.


First-degree burns

Second-degree burns

Third-degree burns

Like mild sunburns, first-degree burns are red, painful, dry, and do not have blisters. They take about seven to 10 days to heal.


A second-degree burn extends beyond the top layer of your skin and causes blisters that may become infected if they pop. Second-degree burns may take between two to three weeks to heal.


The symptoms of third-degree burns vary. They may be waxy and white or dark brown, and they may char. Third-degree burns cause raised, leathery skin and undeveloped blisters. There is no set timeline for healing, and third-degree burns often result in scarring.


Medical care for burns

  • Go to an urgent care clinic if you have a minor second-degree burn that blisters, such as painful sunburns or burns from flames or a hot pan.
  • Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have severe burns to the hands, face, eyes, ears, feet, or groin area.

3. Skin Irritations, Bug Bites, and Rashes

A nature hike can be good for your soul but rough on your body. It’s not uncommon to run into biting bugs and poisonous plants. Usually, the irritation they cause is minimal, but if the irritation becomes a problem, minor care may be needed.

Bug Bites and Stings

Bites and stings from mosquitos, ants, fleas, and bees are usually harmless. They may itch, swell or cause mild pain.

Poisonous Plants

Even if you are not allergic to the oil in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, you might still get a red, itchy rash if you come into contact with these plants. Their oil can stick to your skin, shoes, or clothing and easily spread to other areas. If this happens, a rash will develop within a few days and may last several weeks, requiring a prescription for a topical steroid.

Medical care for skin irritations and rashes:

  • You should go to an urgent care if you have a rash, bite, or sting that worsens or makes it hard to relax, sleep or perform daily activities. Most rashes only last a few days, but if yours lasts longer or you develop a fever, we can help.
  • Go to the emergency department or call 911 if you develop signs of a serious allergic reaction, such as vomiting, trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing, or severe swelling.

4. Sunburns

More hours of sunlight might be one of the greatest things about summer. The vitamin D we get from the sun supports our mental health, physical performance, and our immune system. Being out in the sun is a good thing, as long as you take the right steps to protect your skin.

Sunburn is painful and can have long-lasting adverse effects on your health. It accelerates skin aging, the leading cause of basal and squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

If your sunburn blisters, this means you have a second-degree sunburn. Let the blisters heal — do not pop them as that may lead to an infection. If your blisters become infected, head to urgent care treatment.

5. Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer’s ear (also called external otitis) is the inflammation of the external ear canal. It can be caused by allergies, dermatological disease, or infection, including infection caused by water trapped in the outer ear canal. People of any age can get swimmer’s ear, but it occurs in children more often than adults. It is not the same as a middle ear infection, and it is not contagious.

Get care for swimmer’s ear at an urgent care if:

  • You feel pain when the outer ear is bumped or tugged.
  • Your ear itches.
  • Your ear has drainage.
  • Your ear is red or swollen.

If you have any of these symptoms, we can examine you and prescribe antibiotic ear drops to treat your swimmer's ear.

Learn more and find a doctor

If you have concerns about your health or it’s time for a check-up, it’s important to see a primary care provider. Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options.

For urgent, walk-in or after-hours care, visit one of Swedish Urgent Care facilities. Swedish Express Care Virtual connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our Swedish provider directory. If you have questions about care for your children or want to schedule vaccines and immunizations for them, contact Swedish Pediatrics or your child’s primary care provider.
Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.
Additional resources

Five ways to make the most of a primary care provider visit

Have you scheduled your annual wellness exam?

ER, urgent care or your doctor's office? Know where to go and when


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