Last Sunday, I decided to begin training for an upcoming backpacking trip with my son. Unfortunately, I chose an unusually hot summer day where the temperature hit 98°F, and I dearly paid for it. My 8.5 mile hike of the Liberty Lake Loop trail started out fine, but my relative lack of training with a pack plus not carrying enough water put me in an embarrassing situation. I found myself sitting about a half a mile from the trailhead in the sparse shade, exhausted, chilled and asking for water from the next hiker that passed by. Thankfully, a helpful couple was able to provide the much needed hydration that I desperately needed to get me safely back to my truck. When I got home, I realized how potentially dangerous my predicament could have become.
A few safety tips are therefore appropriate this time of year:
- Stay Hydrated. ALWAYS carry adequate hydration when out in the heat. Drink BEFORE getting thirsty to avoid dehydration. Water is preferred, along with salty snacks, but electrolyte-rich fluids such as Gatorade can also prevent going into heat exhaustion or, worse yet, suffering heat stroke.
- Protect Your Skin. Wear light colored clothing and use an adequate sunblock of 15 SPF or higher, applying liberally and every couple of hours to any sun exposed areas. Get a broad spectrum product that covers both UVA and UVB rays. Wear a wide brimmed hat, if possible, to provide added protection to the scalp and face. All of these steps will help prevent dangerous malignant skin lesions, also known as skin cancer. You may read here for more information on the symptoms of skin cancer.
- Protect Your Eyes. Wear sunglasses that protect against UV light. Exposure to sunlight may increase the risk of cataracts and pterygium, a growth the can develop on the eyes.
- Choose a Cool Time of Day. Gradually advance your activity or exercise and, if possible, try to limit your sun exposure. Exercising or planning activities before 10 AM and after 6 PM decreases heat and sun exposure and is therefore safer.
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Have fun, and be safe this summer!
Richard R. Samuel, MD, ABFP