The most common and bizarre dangers New Zealanders encounter over summer

Whether it's a trampolines, calm water at the beach or fruit cake, summer can behold a few hidden dangers for families, holiday goers and their pets.

Boogie-board wipeouts, Christmas lights and insects also make the list - with ACC having received 506,234 claims between December 1, 2017 and February 28, 2018. That came to a total cost of $797,407,048.

The most common and bizarre dangers New Zealanders encounter over summer
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Anecdotally, Dr Andre Cromhout from the Coast and Capital DHB emergency department says injuries over the summer period typically relate to falls.

Alcohol certainly plays its part says Isaac Carlson, ACC's head of injury prevention, with roughly 12 percent of claims having alcohol as a contributing factor.

But Dr Cromhout says ladders are also commonly to blame for adults taking a tumble over the silly season. For kids, soft-tissue injuries normally result from falling off play equipment, bikes and scooters.

Young girl in pink top and colorful leggings jumps on trampoline in garden.
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Trampolines are often found near the top of kids' Christmas gift lists, but emergency medicine specialist Dr Vicki Vertongen says while children should be encouraged to get outside while the sun is out, trampolines can be dangerous and need good safety nets.

"Parents also need to ensure that any trampoline they purchase is of safe and study design, and there is only one person on the trampoline at a time," says Dr Vertongen.

A 2016 study of patients hospitalised in Counties Manukau DHB found trampoline injuries increase by more than a third in the spring and summer months after daylight savings.

Hidden dangers at the Beach
 

Most ACC claims over summer come from injuries at the home, which Mr Carlson puts down to complacency and stringent health and safety rules in the workplace.

But danger can also strike while out and about at the pool or at beach.

Although most beachgoers have heard of a 'rip', Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) national lifesaving manager Allan Mundy says the currents can have some dangerous hidden features that lead to many of the SLSNZ's 1062 life-threatening rescues.

The most common and bizarre dangers New Zealanders encounter over summer
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Mr Mundy says one of the ways of identifying where a rip may be is locating a patch of calm water between two breaking sets of waves. That could be a rip channel, a deep section of the water which can become dangerous when the current begins sucking the water out to sea.

"It catches quite a large number of people out. So they might come down to the beach and jump in the water, and the rip is not working, they might be in a rip channel," he said.

"Once the rip starts to suck, the waves stop breaking in that area. So it is something that catches people off guard... they come down and choose to swim in these calm patches unaware of the danger."

Mr Mundy recommends swimming in shallow areas at the beach or away from sudden drop-offs in the depth of water. Another way of identifying a rip is by finding where the water is dirty with sand, meaning where the intense currents have scoured the ocean bed.

"The clean stuff is where you should be swimming, not where the sand has been sucked up, which indicates a pretty strong current going out to sea."

The most common and bizarre dangers New Zealanders encounter over summer
Photo credit: Newshub / Surf Life Saving New Zealand

If you do get caught in a rip, Mr Mundy says don't exhaust yourself by swimming against it. Instead, lie on your back, put your hand up and yell for help. Lifeguards will see a hand up from far away, and those on the beach should ring 111 and ask for police if they see someone in trouble.

Other hidden dangers at the beach can include jellyfish, which Mr Mundy reckons will be bigger than usual this summer due to warm waters, as well as children being hit with boogie boards and floatation devices. He doesn't, however, believe Kiwis should be overly concerned about shark attacks.

"Our lifeguards wouldn't be doing what we do if it was as dangerous as it is perceived to be."

Hidden dangers at the park
 

So if you're not staying at home and the beach isn't your cup of tea, how about a picnic?

Bryan Wilson, the head of New Zealand Food Safety, says it's important to remember summer brings warm, moist conditions, meaning preparing, cooking and storing food requires special care.

Don't be complacent if you are barbecuing at a grill in a local park; make sure all surfaces, utensils, plates and other equipment are washed down to remove harmful bacteria.

Also, try not to burn yourself - the ACC says over the 2017/18 summer there were 525 barbeque-related claims, with a total cost of $482,219.

The most common and bizarre dangers New Zealanders encounter over summer
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It is best to sear steaks and other 'intact meats' on the outside surface, but other meats that may have bacteria mixed into them, such as chicken meat, should be cooked through.

If in doubt cook a little longer, while all food should be covered and kept cool until it is ready to eat. If you are eating away from home, use an icepack or chilly bin to keep the food cold.

ACC received 11,745 insect-related claims last summer, costing $914,003 - far more than the 25 sunburn-related claims with a cost of $6706.

The most common and bizarre dangers New Zealanders encounter over summer
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Mr Carlson said most people can deal with their sunburns at home, but insect bites can lead to allergic reactions requiring some form of treatment.

Hidden dangers over the Christmas period
 

While Christmas has come and gone for another year, some less fortunate people may have been gifted a new injury.

Mr Carlson says there can be a bizarre range of claims over the holiday, from motorbike accidents (142 in 2017) to cleaning/vacuum accidents (22).

In December 2017, 69 claims came from Christmas tree-related accidents, and 16 from Christmas lights, which cost $34,310.

Pets also aren't always safe over the holiday period.

In December 2016, a Welsh corgi cross ate a fruit cake, resulting in raising toxicity. Sedating the dog and giving it fluids to flush the toxins out came with a jolly Christmas bill of $1179, according to Southern Cross Pet Insurance.

Over the past two summers the insurer has heard of at least 10 claims of dogs being sunburnt or suffering heat stroke, 37 cases of dogs or cats swallowing fish hooks or getting them stuck in their lips, and 12 claims for dogs eating corn cobs.

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