Tips for Outdoor Activity
After a long winter, nothing beats playing outside in the sun and fresh air. Whether you plan to take a walk, bike ride or work in the garden, here are a few tips for making your outdoor activities safer and more enjoyable.
Stay hydrated. Remember to pack a water bottle. This is particularly important if you plan on working or exercising outside. Too many forget to stay hydrated and will develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Most healthy adults need to consume around 2 liters of water per day. This need increases with strenuous activity or time spent in the heat. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, replenish electrolytes lost through sweating and may be useful if you have been exercising. Signs of heat-related illness may at first be mild. However, symptoms can become progressively worse and may include elevated temperatures, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting and muscle cramps. Severe dehydration often requires emergent treatment and often IV hydration. The best treatment for dehydration is truly prevention. Drink that water!
Pack sunscreen. Pick a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. A minimum of SPF 15 is recommended for daily use. However, if you plan to spend the day outside in the sun, purchase sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Waterproof SPF is a good idea for those participating in swimming, exercising or working outside. In general, waterproof sunscreen should be reapplied every 40-80 minutes. Make sure to cover all areas of sun-exposed skin and apply an adequate amount. Sunscreen will help prevent against the immediate pain from a sunburn, as well as skin cancers directly related to sun exposure.
Consider bug spray. Mosquitos, spiders and ticks can become worrisome in the warmer months. While most bug bites are only a nuisance, some can cause more serious diseases such as West Nile, Zika and Lyme Disease. If traveling, be aware of the diseases specific to that area. For instance, mosquitoes in Nebraska may carry West Nile, but not Zika. Choose an Environmental Protection Agency-registered repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR 3535, oil of lemon or eucalyptus, paramenthane-diol or 2-undecanone as the active ingredient. If using both sunscreen and bug repellent, apply your sunscreen first. Do not use insect repellent on infants younger than 2 years old. Be sure to keep repellent out of your eyes, nose and mouth. To that end, do not apply bug repellent on children’s palms, and clean your hands after applying. Do not apply repellent under clothes. The Environmental Protection Agency provides a search tool to help you find the appropriate bug repellant, found here.
By Julie Wiekamp, PA-C, Cheney Ridge Family Medical Clinic