The summer season is the best time for most outdoor activities. With the great sunshine and gentle breezes of the season, there are a million things to do outside, from hanging out at the beach or pool, playing soccer, or even hiking to reading a book in the shade of a tree. There are even places where summer skiing is a popular pastime.
However, outdoor fun doesn't mean you can throw caution to the wind. Sunburn, dehydration and bug bites can put a kink in your activities. Here are a few tips to follow to make sure you'll have the time of your life while experiencing some summer fun in the great outdoors.
Here Comes the Sun
Sun can be good for you! It helps your body produce vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. It's also a great mood enhancer . . . don't you feel more cheerful on a sunny day than on a rainy day?
But too much sun exposure can also lead to skin cancer. And too much tanning can also cause premature wrinkles. You definitely need to protect yourself when you are going out into the sun. Here are a few hints to protect your skin:
• Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are the most intense.
• Apply waterproof sunscreen (with an SPF rating of 15 or higher) at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure and re-apply after swimming or heavy perspiration.
• If you are allergic to PABA, use a PABA-free or PABA-substitute sunscreen.
• Sand, concrete and water can all reflect the sun's rays onto your skin. Sitting in the shade doesn't guarantee protection from the sun.
• Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays.
• Cover up with a wide-brim hat, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
How to Do a Monthly Skin Self-Exam After a Bath:
• In a well-lighted room, use a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to examine the front, back, right and left sides of your body.
• Look under your arms, on your forearms and backs of your hands and palms.
• Check the backs of your legs and buttocks. Examine your feet, including your between your toes and on the soles.
• Part your hair and examine your scalp and the back of your neck.
• Look for red patches on your skin and sores that don't heal.
• Check moles and note any changes in color, shape, border, sensation, surface or size. If you notice any change, see your doctor or dermatologist immediately.
Beat the Heat
Having all that fun in the outdoors can lead to heat stroke and heat exhaustion if you're not careful. By the time you are feeling thirsty, you are already slightly dehydrated. Combine that with heat and you'll get a bad situation.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion:
• dizziness, fatigue, faintness, headache
• skin that is pale and clammy
• rapid and weak pulse
• fast and shallow breathing
• muscle cramps
• intense thirst
Causes of Heat Exhaustion:
• insufficient water intake
• insufficient salt intake
• deficiency in the production of sweat
Signs of Heat Stroke:
• often preceded by heat exhaustion and its symptoms
• hot, dry, flushed skin
• no sweating
• high body temperature
• rapid heartbeat
• loss of consciousness
Causes of Heat Stroke:
• overexposure to extreme heat
• a breakdown of your body's heat-regulating mechanism (the body becomes overheated to a dangerous degree)
How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion/Stroke:
• wear light, loose-fitting clothing in hot weather
• drink water often, don't wait until you are thirsty
• drink extra water if you sweat heavily. If urine output decreases, increase your water intake
• work out in the early morning or late afternoon when it is cooler
• if you become overheated while indoors, improve your ventilation by opening a window, using a fan or air conditioner. This promotes sweat evaporation, which cools the skin.
• acclimate yourself to hot weather
• avoid alcohol
What to Do if Someone Suffers Heat Exhaustion/Stroke:
• If someone with symptoms is very hot and not sweating: Call 911 right away for an ambulance. Cool the person rapidly. Use a cold-water bath or wrap the person in wet sheets.
• If someone is faint but sweating: Call 911 right away for an ambulance (except in mild cases). Give the person liquids (water, soft drinks or fruit juice). Do not give salt pills.
Wet and Wild
Going to the beach is a year-round activity that many people enjoy. However, the beach is an extra popular spot during the summer. Don't let the beauty of the water fool you, however. Keep the following tips in mind to enjoy the water and be safe at the same time.
Safety Tips at the Beach:
• Always swim or surf at a beach patrolled by lifeguards.
• Always swim under supervision or with a friend.
• Read and obey all signs, especially those that tell you to stay OUT of the water, i.e. high surf, jelly fish warnings, etc.
• If you are unsure of the conditions of the beach you are at, ask the lifeguard on duty.
• Don't swim immediately after eating a meal. Wait an hour or two.
• Don't swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Conditions of the water do change regularly, so check the conditions before you enter the water.
• If you get into trouble in the water, don't panic. Signal for help, float and wait for assistance.
• Float with a rip current or undertow. Don't swim against it.
Safety Tips at the Pool:
• Supervision is the key to prevent pool drownings. Supervision means constant watching and not occasionally glancing at your child. Never take your eyes off your child.
• Always obey the pool's safety rules and listen to the instructions of the pool lifeguards.
• Play safe. Always walk (not run) around the pool, and check for others before jumping into the water.
Safety Tips at Home:
• Supervise your children. If you need to leave the water area, take your child with you.
• Install fencing around spas and swimming pools. Make sure that the gate is always locked and that there is nothing leaning on the fence that could help a child climb over it.
• Install lifesaving equipment near your pool.
• Empty baths, basins, sinks, troughs and wading pools immediately after using them.
• Securely cover liquid-filled buckets or keep them out of the reach of children.
Hypothermia is a condition in which the body's internal or core temperature drops below the normal 35 degrees Celsius. Anyone can suffer from hypothermia and one of the chief causes is being in or near water. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia vary. In mild hypothermia, people will initially feel cool and start shivering. They might be clumsy and appear uncoordinated, even becoming irrational and confused. Often they will deny there is a problem.
If cooling continues, people will eventually lose consciousness, collapse and die. The condition is avoidable, usually by following a few simple rules:
• Always wear suitable clothing when in or near the water to minimize body heat loss, i.e. wear a wetsuit when snorkeling.
• Wear a hat. You can lose up to one-third of your body heat through your head.
• Eat regularly since hunger and fatigue increase the risk of hypothermia.
• Change your plans if the conditions are too rough, especially if the wind is very strong. You can always go on your outing on another day.
• Seek shelter and wrap up warmly if you or someone else is getting cold.
98.6° F Normal Body Core Temperature
96.8° F Feel Cold; Still alert and able to help oneself. Numbness in the legs and arms.
95° F Mild Hypothermia; Shivering
93.2° F Clumsy, irrational and confused. May appear drunk. Slurred speech. Denies problem.
91.4° F Moderate Hypothermia; Muscle stiffness
89.6° F Severe Hypothermia; Shivering stops. Collapse.
87.8° F Semi-conscious
86° F Critical Hypothermia; Unconscious. No response to pain. Skin is cold, may be blue/grey in color.
84.2° F Slow pulse and breathing; may be difficult to detect.
82.4° F Cardiac Arrest; No obvious pulse or breathing. Pupils dilated. May appear dead.
Take a Hike
Hiking is a great way to get a good cardiovascular workout and take in some great scenery at the same time. Trails range from easy to difficult and it is important not to try to do too much too soon. Consult trail guides and experts before taking on a trail for the first time. Use the following tips to make your hike enjoyable and worry-free.
• Never hike alone.
• Tell a friend/family member where you are going and when you will be returning.
• Don't start out too late in the day. Most of us underestimate how long a hike will take. Climbing over rocks, around trees and up hills will slow you down. Allow 30 minutes for each mile, plus an extra 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet in elevation you will be covering.
• Bring plenty of food and water. You can easily become dehydrated on a hot day. Bring at least a quart of water on short hikes and two quarts of water on long hikes. DO NOT DRINK ANY STREAM WATER. The water may be contaminated and you may be at risk for leptospirosis, which is a potentially fatal disease.
• Think twice about swimming in streams. You can also get leptospirosis if you have open cuts or scratches on your skin and you swim in contaminated water.
• Stay on the trail or be at risk of getting lost.
• Do not hike in narrow canyons or gulches when it looks like rain. Flash floods have killed hikers in the past. If you are hiking in a narrow canyon or gulch and it starts to rain, turn back immediately. If a stream begins to rise before you can leave the canyon, go to higher ground and wait. Do not try to cross or out-race a swiftly flowing stream.
• Bring a rain jacket and a sweater on long ridge hikes. It can get very windy, cold and wet atop a mountain ridge. Staying warm will help prevent hypothermia (see "Summer Chill" for an explanation of hypothermia).
• Wear appropriate clothing. Good hiking boots will help support your ankles. If you are on a stream hike with a lot of rock hopping, wear tabis. A walking stick may also be helpful for balance when crossing streams. If you are going on a longer hike with overgrown sections along the way, long pants and gloves will help you avoid cuts and scratches.
• Bring a cellular phone in case you get lost; however, be aware that cellular phones will not work where there is thick vegetation.
• Obey all signs and warnings.
• Include a first-aid kit with your supplies.