With just a few weeks from the official start of summer, people are looking ahead to hiking, biking or just lazing by the pool.
Before heading for outdoor fun, heed the advice of Hudson Headwaters Health Network family practice physician, Noelle Stevens, who offered a number of useful tips.
-- Protect your skin from harmful rays. While some people may think they need to counteract a deficiency of vitamin D by spending hours in the sun without sunscreen, Stevens said we actually need little sun to correct a vitamin problem, and it’s more important to guard against the harmful rays. She advises her adult patients to wear a sun protection factor of at least 15 and at least 30 for children. She uses 50 SPF on her own kids.
“Children do not need to tan, and we’re really protecting their skin for their future,” she said.
-- Reapply sunscreen at least every few hours, or more frequently if you are perspiring or spending time in the water. Opt for a higher SPF if you’re going to be in direct sunlight.
-- Light-colored, breathable cotton clothing is important, as are hats, especially for children or older people with thinning hair. Some manufacturers of both children’s and adult clothing, like Solumbra, offer fabrics with an SPF of 100 plus that is advertised to block 98 percent of harmful UVA and UVB rays.
-- Stay hydrated in the heat. Stevens said water usually is the best choice, but how much you need varies with your level of physical activity, your age and individual fitness, and how humid or dry the weather. If you’re planning a rigorous bike ride, diluted sport drinks help you restore your electrolyte balance without taking in too many calories.
In most cases, the color of your urine will be a reliable indicator of your hydration level. Dark yellow means you’re not getting enough fluid intake but pale yellow is fine. Of course, if you are drinking alcohol excessively, you will still get pale-colored urine, but it does not mean you are hydrating correctly.
Stevens said it’s especially important to remind older people to drink more because as we age, our thirst drive can decrease.
-- Neglecting to drink enough water can lead to heat exhaustion, which has signs that include headache, nausea and vomiting. There also may be muscle cramping, light-headedness and dizziness. Stevens advised taking a break and getting something to eat and drink. In this case, sports drinks might be best because it’s important to quickly restore the electrolyte balance.
-- Watch your children around water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) in the United States in 2007 — and more than one in five people were kids 14 and younger. In the case of nonfatal drownings, brain damage can occur, which results in memory problems, learning disabilities and permanent loss of basic functioning.
Stevens advises that if you have a pool or beach party, consider hiring a lifeguard to watch the children if you will be distracted.
-- Watch for insects and ticks. Stevens said that while some parents don’t like using bug repellants with the chemical ingredient DEET, it successfully keeps insects and ticks away. She said formulations that contain 20 to 30 percent DEET are most effective, but be sure to wash hands immediately after applying it.
You can protect yourself further by wearing a hat, light long-sleeve shirts and pants tucked into socks or hiking boots and spraying your clothing with DEET. Once you’re inside, immediately check for ticks, since you probably won’t even feel them.
“They can end up landing on your leg, but they’ll crawl right up and try to get to you where they can, maybe at the waistline if a shirt wasn’t tucked in,” Stevens said.
If you find a tick, you can try to pull it off, but if it has already attached to your skin, it won’t come off as easily. In that case, take fine-tipped tweezers or a special tick removal tool and gently pull the tick away from the skin.
“It may take time and pressure,” Stevens said.
Be sure to wash the affected area and the tweezers thoroughly with soap and water.
If a tick lands on a hard-to-reach part of your body and no one can help remove it, call your doctor or if the office is closed, go to an urgent care center for help.
Stevens said a tick that is removed easily probably hasn’t been on the skin long enough that you need
to be concerned about the transmission of Lyme disease, but you
could call your health care provider to see if you should come into the office. If, however, you see red spots or a rash developing in the subsequent days or weeks, see your doctor.
-- Gear up. Whether it’s wearing a helmet while bicycling, skate boarding or roller blading, or a life vest while out on the water, protective gear will go a long way to adding to your safety and enjoyment of the sport.