'Tis the season for hikes and horseback rides, swimming pools and swing sets, kayaking and kite flying. And don’t forget the games—golf, tennis, softball, frisbee and more. It’s all fun in the sun until someone gets hurt. Unfortunately, visits to emergency rooms skyrocket in the summer. Stay safe outdoors by following these tips.
Screen out the sun
Whether you’re exercising, sprucing up your garden or playing cornhole with your family, be sure to apply sunscreen 15–30 minutes before going outside. You’ll need about a shot glass full of lotion to fully cover your skin. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweaty activities. Wearing sunscreen can prevent sunburn and sun poisoning, which can cause fever, chills and dehydration. In addition to sunscreen, wear sunglasses, a hat and protective clothing, and head for shade when the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Keep your cool
To prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke, avoid doing strenuous outdoor activities on hot days. Drinking plenty of water is also a must. Older adults and young children are most susceptible to dehydration and heat-related problems. Watch for symptoms like confusion, nausea, rapid breathing or racing heart.
Though it sounds like odd advice for a summer day, you should always warm up your muscles before doing outdoor exercises or sports. Skipping this important step is one of the biggest sources of injury for recreational athletes.
Splish splash safely
Taking a dip in a lake, river or ocean is the perfect way to beat the heat, but never swim alone. If you’re in the ocean, only swim where there’s a lifeguard, since rip tides can endanger even experienced swimmers. When swimming in open water, wear a brightly colored swim cap so boats or lifeguards can spot you easily.
Be watersport wise
Whether in a boat or a stand-up paddleboard (yes, you can!), think “safety first.” In most cases, you’ll want to wear a life jacket and have a buddy with you. Also be sure to check the weather forecast before heading out.
Side-step hiking harms
Before you hit the trails, load your pack with necessities like sunblock, water, snacks, bug spray and bandages for blisters. If walking on hills or rough terrain, use a walking stick or trekking pole to prevent falls. Hiking shoes or boots can also improve stability. Be on the lookout for poison ivy and poison oak to avoid an itchy souvenir of your outing.
Be bug aware
Hikes aren’t the only places you’ll encounter disease-carrying mosquitoes and ticks. Decrease your chance of being bitten by wearing protective clothing, using repellent on exposed skin and avoiding the outdoors during prime bug-biting hours (usually around dawn and dusk). Eliminate standing water around your home (mosquitoes just need about a quarter of an inch of water to lay their eggs). Even if you use repellent, inspect your body for ticks after being outdoors.