Outdoor safety tips for summer
Those hot, lazy days of summer put us in a playful mood to make the most of the great outdoors, from picnics and backyard cookouts to swimming at the beach and camping in the woods. It's also easy, however, to forget to play it safe and unwittingly put ourselves in danger. Here are some outdoor safety tips and tricks to bear in mind as we head out into the summer sun.
How to avoid heat exhaustion
It isn't hard to become overly enthusiastic about enjoying the summer weather while we can. But too much sun, heat and activity can lead to serious heat-related health issues. When the body temperature exceeds about 105 degrees F., it can cause a person to collapse from heat exhaustion — symptoms include tingling in the limbs, the malfunction of the body's natural cooling system through sweating, and reduced consciousness. In some cases, heat exhaustion can even be fatal.
Here are guidelines to follow to avoid heat exhaustion:
- Know the warning signs. Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, weakness, vomiting, palpitations, excessive sweating, and numbness.
- Pace yourself. When summer weather arrives, it will takes the body's cooling system about one week to acclimate; don't overexert yourself in the interim. Remember to take frequent breaks from outdoor physical activity.
- Stay in the shade. Keep out of the direct sun when temperatures heat up. This will keep your from getting sunburned as well as prevent heat exhaustion.
- Hydrate. Loss of fluids is usually a factor in heat exhaustion. Drink at least eight (8-ounce) glasses of water or other non-dehydrating fluids every day.
How to choose sunglasses
Sunglasses not only protect your eyes from the sun, they also double as a great fashion accessory. Wearing shades when you are outdoors can help prevent eye cancer, blindness and cataracts. Choose good-quality sunglasses that offer protection from UVA and UVB radiation, which causes the most eye damage. Less expensive sunglasses without the UV protection are worse than wearing no sunglasses at all — they open your pupils and let more harmful rays into your eyes. Add a hat with a wide brim to boost your coverage.
When choosing your cool summer shades:
- Make sure the glasses offer 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
- Choose polycarbonate lenses. They are less likely than glass or plastic lenses to break. While they're not impenetrable, when they do "shatter" they do so in a way that prevents small pieces of the material from finding its way into your eyes.
- Don't buy polarized-only lenses. They cut the glare but don't provide protection from UVA and UVB radiation.
- Try wrap-around sports styles to keep those harmful rays from leaking in the sides of your lens frames.
- Fit your kids with proper sunglasses. Their corneas let in more UV light than those of adults.
How to apply sunscreen
Sunscreen is recommended for everyone, even those with dark skin or a base tan. Exposure to UVA and UVB radiation can lead to skin cancer. A child is even more at risk (a severe sunburn before the age of 18 months doubles the risk of melanoma later).
The following sunscreen tips will ensure you stay well protected:
- Wear SPF15 or higher. Sunscreens are rated by SPF, sun protection factor. The SPF number suggests how many times longer a protected person can stay in the sun than someone without sunscreen. SPF 15 is enough for normal skin, but opt for a higher SPF on intense sun days. Always go higher if you have a fair complexion or burn quickly, and try to stay in the shade when possible.
- Apply sunscreen liberally. Apply the sun protectant to all your extremities, including ears, face, hands, neck and feet. Ask for help when it comes to hard to reach areas such as the back. It can turn into a relaxing shoulder massage if you're lucky!
- Get slathered 30 minutes before you head out. Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go outside so it will absorb into the skin.
- Reapply as needed. Easy to forget, but just as important: reapply every two hours or after swimming.
- Bug off wisely. Insect repellents reduce the effectiveness of sunscreens, but are highly recommended to protect yourself from bites and stings. If you use both, go for a higher SPF rating.
How to keep ants away from your picnic or patio
Eating outside always seems like a party, even if it's just yourself and a drumstick — that is, until the ants come marching along.
Here are some eco-friendly solutions to keep these determined insects from spoiling the fun:
- Mint oil. Mint oil is a powerful, non-toxic ant deterrent. Sprinkle chopped mint leaves around the picnic table or blanket.
- Draw the line. A line of chalk or talc will discourage ants from crossing.
- "Agent" orange. Try some drops of orange oil or put some orange peels in the food processor to break them down into a liquid. Orange oil kills ants on contact.
- Try boric acid. Boric acid often is used as an antiseptic or insecticide. It dissolves the hard armor or "exoskeleton" of ants, but is slow-acting. Sprinkle this low-toxic powder around your patio.