Whether you're heading out to the beach, going for a trek in the jungle, or hiking up a mountain, you’re planning to take advantage of the warm summer weather to get your outdoor fix.
And while the summertime is a blessing for adventurous individuals, it also comes with some risks. It's important to be prepared to beat the heat so you can make the most of your excursions and avoid complications.
The American Public Health Association says that climate change is increasing overall temperatures and extreme heat events, and that these changes can cause fatal heat-related conditions. That's why staying hydrated and prepared is vital to anyone who ventures outdoors during the summertime.
Most active individuals know the importance of staying hydrated because our bodies naturally let us know when we are thirsty. But sometimes we can get distracted by what we're doing and forget to hydrate anyway.
Follow these tips to ensure your summertime adventures are packed with memories and fun in a safe way:
The best possible way to stay hydrated is to drink plenty of water - even if you don't feel thirsty - as well as drinks that contain electrolytes such as Pedialyte. Electrolytes are critical minerals in our bodies that help balance the amount of water in our bodies and our body's pH levels. Avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks as they can block the body from absorbing water and cause symptoms of dehydration, respectively.
In addition to drinking plenty of water, you can also incorporate certain foods in your diet that will supply you with electrolytes. Whole milk, yogurt, spinach, coconut water, celery, and dill pickles are examples of some foods that are high in electrolytes. Eating these foods the night before your outing will help your body to retain fluids.
The CDC says that high temperatures kill more people every year than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods combined. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration not just for yourself but for those with you - particularly the elderly or young - so you can act quickly. Watch for:
- Extreme thirst
- Less frequent urination/dark colored urine
Also be aware that vomiting and diarrhea can contribute to dehydration so if you or someone traveling with you is experiencing this, ensure they take in more fluid than they are putting out.
GO AT YOUR OWN PACE AND TAKE BREAKS
It's usually at the beginning of a hike that muscles begin to get sore which prevents some people from carrying on. However, going at your own pace and not overworking your body is a great way to ensure you'll enjoy your outing without wearing yourself out.
One of the greatest things about outdoor adventures is the experience of being surrounded by nature and seeing/doing new things. But when you're overheated, it's difficult to enjoy the scenery.
Find a nice, shady spot to rest your mind and body. You can also do some simple stretches that will help keep your body going without overworking yourself.
BRING ALONG FRUITS
While taking a break, dig into a container of strawberries and watermelons or raisins and bananas. These fruits not only taste great, but are high in electrolytes and, let's face it: Adventuring is a lot of work! So having a healthy, electrolyte-rich snack on hand is another great way to stay cool and provide natural energy.
Taking a dip in some cool water is one sure fire way to lower your body's core temperature (plus it's fun!) but it's important that you don't swim in water that is above 80 degrees F, especially when the air temperature is high. Exertion and high temperatures can have fatal consequences so when you go for a swim, ensure that the water is not overly hot and be careful not to over exert yourself.
CARRY A MISTER
In the absence of a lake, lagoon, ocean, or pond, you can always carry a misting bottle that will help cool you off. There are many types to choose from and most are compact enough to fit in a day bag or backpack.
AVOID USING FANS
While it may be tempting to pull out a hand-held fan, using fans is actually a false comfort. According to FEMA, people should avoid using fans when the temperature outside is over 95 degrees. This is because they create air flow and a false sense of comfort but actually don't reduce body temperature and can actually increase the risks of heat-related illness.
COOL THE PULSE POINTS
Science shows us that the brain is particularly susceptible to high temperatures. The brain is also the part of the body that is responsible for sending messages to the rest of the body to cool off.
The brain carries messages to the rest of the body to cool off (such as sweating) or warm up (such as shivering) based on how the body feels. It has a built-in thermostat and there are pulse points on the body that you can cool off with water or ice packs that will "trick" the brain into cooling your body.
Pulse points are so called because they are areas of the body where you can feel your pulse. The insides of your wrists, your temples, and your neck are good places to put a cold wash cloth or ice pack to help your whole body cool.
When temperatures are high, wearing the right clothing and accessories is key to keeping cool. Avoid heavy fabrics such as denim and opt, instead, for a lighter fabric. Merino wool is an example of the perfect clothing for the adventurous individual because of its cooling properties (it's great for cold-weather activities as well!).
In addition to the right fabric, pay attention to colors. You may think that wearing white or light colors is the best way to avoid getting overheated but the truth is, white may reflect back sunlight but it also reflects back your own body heat onto you. Alternatively, experts report that darker colors will absorb the heat from both the sun, and your body, making darker colors better for outdoor adventures. Darker colors also will provide additional protection against UV rays.
BRING YOUR SHADES
Not only do sunglasses make you look cool, but they make you feel cooler. The National Eye Institute recommends wearing shades with high UV protection because exposure to sunlight is damaging to your eyes. It's also worth noting that individuals with lighter colored eyes (blue, green, grey,etc.) are more sensitive to light so pack an extra pair, just in case you lose one while taking a swim.
DON A HAT
Hats are not only stylish, but can help with an added protection against the sun's UV rays and help to keep you cool. You can also get your hat wet (as long as it won't ruin it) and this will help you cool off more.
KNOW THE SYMPTOMS
Heat exhaustion is one of the syndromes associated with heat that can come on either quickly or gradually over time. It is dangerous because heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, a deadly result of the body overheating.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Cool, moist skin - sometimes with chills - while in the sun.
- Excessive sweating.
- Rapid, weak pulse.
- Low blood pressure upon standing
If you or someone you are with experiences heat exhaustion, it is important to stop what you are doing and take immediate action. Get to someplace cool, elevate the feet, and use water to both drink and cool the body.
PREPARE IN ADVANCE
You know the saying: An ounce of prevention...
Being an active person means a lot of fun and adventure but it also means being prepared. As the summer weather kicks in and temperatures rise, keep bottles of water in the freezer so you have some to go when you're ready for your next adventure.
If you're hiking, camping, or backpacking, a backpack that utilizes waist straps is better for your body than traditional ones because they distribute the weight better, rather than depending solely on your back and shoulders. This will help prevent you from overexerting yourself where you needn't.
Prepare snacks that are high in nutrients but low in energy. Our bodies need nutrients but some foods take more energy to eat than they give and you don't want to gorge yourself with a huge meal when you're out-and-about, trekking through the forest.
Preparing light, healthy snacks will help keep you on your toes. It's easy to prepare and store them the day before your excursion.
Ultimately, the best way to make the most of your adventure is to listen to your body. Don't overexert yourself; stop when you feel tired; drink when you feel thirsty; eat when you feel peckish.
This way, you are sure to enjoy your explorations without fear of heat exhaustion or other heat-related complications that can come on when you don't expect it.
Staying informed and aware of symptoms of heat-related conditions - and keeping these tips in mind - will help you make your outdoor adventures more memorable, safe, and fun.
Author: Casey Cline