Summer is in full swing and it has been a hot one here in Salt Lake City! I’ll admit, on some days, I don’t want to face the heat. Yet I always do because I love to play outside.
When the mercury climbs up the scale, the key to having fun is to play smart and safe. This happens to be more comfortable as well. Here are 9 summer safety tips for those who love the outdoors.
1. Beat the heat & wear the right clothing.
Wear loose fitting and light colored clothes, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat during the heat of the day. While it may be tempting to wear as little as possible, coving up with light loose clothes actually protects your skin and keeps you cooler. I learned this first-hand in the desserts of Jordan.
This is critical to keeping summer stoke high. Let’s face it, monster headaches and weakness is never fun. Your body cools itself using sweat, which depletes your body quickly in summer heat. The results are miserable. Headache, weakness, and nausea are only the beginning. The key is to hydrate before you’re thirsty beginning well before activity. Water is your best bet, but you can also hydrate by eating moisture-rich foods such as fruit, salads, cold soups, and smoothies.
3. Wear sunscreen.
Slather on the sunscreen frequently and after swimming. Opt for an SPF of at least 30. Mega-high numbers don’t actually make a big difference so save your money. HOW you use your sunscreen is the important factor.
4. Know when to quit.
Know and watch for the warning signs and treatment of heat exhaustion and stroke in yourself and others. Here are the symptoms for quick reference:
Heat Exhaustion: Heavy sweating, weakness, headache, nausea, skin cold, pale and clammy. Weak pulse. Normal temperature possible. Fainting, vomiting.
Heat Stroke: High body temperature (104+). Hot, dry skin. Rapid, strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness. Victim will likely not sweat.
5. Consider timing.
Time your fun for early or late in the day when heat is less intense. For example, I do a lot of sunset/night hikes this time of year.
6. Slow your pace.
Slow wins the race during the summer. Why? Because you’ll actually finish! Heat is hard on the body, so you will find that your normal (cool weather) pace is too much to maintain.
7. Avoid itches, sting and bites.
Flying bugs love the warm days of summer especially around dusk and dawn. Flying insects like mosquitoes are more than annoying, they can carry disease. You have a few ways to avoid them. Physical separation using nets and clothes, bug spray, and timing. By timing I mean, be more cautious during the morning and evening “bugging hours.” Sadly this is also the best time to avoid the worst heat, which the bugs know as well.
Another bug to watch out for are ticks. Likely you’ve heard of Lyme disease, but that’s only one of several tick-born illnesses. I’ve gotten miserably sick from tick bites in the past. They hang out in brushy areas and can be mostly thwarted using repellents and barrier clothing. At the end of the day do a tick check and remove them using a recommended method.
Learn to identify not-so-friendly plants to avoid rashes and stinging. Also, do not consume any plant unless you are absolutely certain it is safe. Here is a good guide by the American Hiking Society.
Snakes and spiders and squirrels, oh my! Okay, that was corny… There are more critters out during the warm season however, so you do need to be cautious. Snakes love to lie out on warm rocks during the cooler parts of the day then hole-up when it gets hot. While snakes are scary (to some people), cute wildlife deserves respect as well. Feeding squirrels is not only bad for their health; you could also get bit. I’m always stunned by parents who let their toddlers feed wildlife. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
8. Play safe (aka Don’t win the Darwin Award).
Playing in the water is a summer tradition. Boating, paddling, skiing, swimming; it’s all a blast and feels so good! Wearing PFD when boating and not swimming alone are two ways to avoid problems. Also, be cautious of jumping into unfamiliar moving water such as rivers or the ocean.
Beer, wine, and refreshing cocktails are often part of the fun at summer gatherings. Used responsibly, there likely won’t be a problem. Sadly, it’s too common that alcohol leads to summer accidents. This is especially critical around water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation, almost a quarter of ED visits for drowning, and about one in five reported boating deaths. Alcohol influences balance, coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat.”
Helmets can make the difference between an accident with scrapes and breaks and one that’s deadly. Protect your head anytime you’re biking, rafting, climbing or paddling. Why be an organ donor when a cast would do?
1st Aid Kits
Having a good first aid kit handy, and knowing how to use it, is important whenever you play outdoors. Especially if help is far away. They are reasonably light and inexpensive. I keep one in the day-pack all year. REI has some tips on choosing the right first aid kit for your adventure.
9. Take Care of Fido.
Don’t forget that summer heat is hard on your furry friend’s too. Asphalt and sand can burn paws, and dogs don’t cool as easily. Make sure to give them plenty of shade and clean water. Don’t depend on puddles and stream water because it may be contaminated, especially in the summer. Also, don’t push them to do too much in the heat. Just like for us humans, slow and steady is a better option dogs. When you get home, a bath and tick check are good ideas.
I’ve shared a lot of things to consider here and you might get the idea that I don’t enjoy myself during summer. It’s actually the opposite. I’m out nearly every day during the summer, running, hiking, climbing and paddling. Because I use these safety tips, I can play harder and have more fun. Now that’s what summer is for!