The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the world is calling. Many of us have been cooped up during COVID, so this year in particular people are eager to get out there and hit the road, the beach, and the trail. Whether you’re out in the summer sun for work or for play, the season brings with it its own demands for taking care of yourself and your little ones, and there are a few things to keep in mind in your rush to embrace the great outdoors this summer.
Beware the Tick
For one, 2021 promises to be a buggy season. Scientists are already measuring a higher-than-average seasonal boom in ticks, due partly to the incessant march of climate change and partly to last year’s boom in America’s varmint population, favorite prey of the blood-sucking eight-legged freaks. Ticks are carriers of Lyme disease, characterized by a distinctive “bullseye” rash, fatigue, and, if left untreated, severe headaches, joint pain, and heart palpitations. Wear long, lightweight pants if you’re trekking through thick underbrush, and don’t forget to do a tick-check when you get home.
Where There’s Fire, There’s Smoke
Smoke is likely to be a problem this summer as well, particularly if you live in the West. The 2020-2021 winter brought us less rain than we’d hoped, and fire season has already begun in large parts of the country. Limit outdoor activities when air-quality gets bad, and if you can stay indoors when that smoke drifts in, do. Even playing Yahtzee with the kids beats inhaling that stuff.
Man It’s a Hot One
But naturally, heat is the biggest outdoor concern for us during the summer. Heat-related illnesses (HRIs) include an array of conditions to look out for. Heat rash (also called “miliaria”) is an itchy skin condition resulting from excessive sweating that clogs our sweat glands, especially in spots that may rub against clothing or other surfaces, such as the back, chest, and stomach. The best way to avoid heat rash is to wear lightweight, breathable clothing, and avoid overexertion in the heat of the day.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are more serious HRIs. Heat exhaustion is caused by the loss of water and electrolytes through sweating, and it can be a precursor to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition where an overheating body enters a feedback-loop and is unable to cool itself, resulting in body temperatures exceeding 104F. Studies have shown that runners are especially susceptible to HRIs. Signs that someone is entering HRI territory include fatigue, dizziness, irritability, headache, hot and dry skin (or, alternately, cool and clammy skin), rapid heart rate, and dark or reduced urine.
“Water, Rest, and Shade”
HRIs can be deadly serious, and the best approach is to avoid them altogether. The US Department of Labor recommends the mantra, “Water, Rest, and Shade.” Staying hydrated is an absolute must, and remember not to over-do it out there - slow down and take frequent breaks before you start to feel heat symptoms. Wear clothing designed to breathe and keep you cool; don’t underestimate the effect a good pair of shorts can have. Sunglasses and sunscreen will protect you from the sun’s UV rays, but in terms of sun protection there’s just no substitute for a good sun hat.
Keep Cool and Carry On
Don’t forget that children are at particular risk for HRIs. Kids are especially excited to get out there this summer, with quarantine reducing many kids’ school days to a Zoom window. They may not self-regulate in the heat of the day, so make sure they’re drinking plenty of fluids and dressing appropriately for their activities. If possible, get them outside in the early and late hours of the day when the sun’s heat is slackened.
Outdoor Equipped can help you stay cool and safe this summer. With a little fore-thought and preparation, together we can keep the bugs and heat at bay, whether on the job or on the trail.