Some of my favorite things in life take place during the delicious days of summer getting ice cream from a truck, picnicking with friends, diving into a cool lake. Unfortunately, some of my not-so-favorite things also take place during summer: finding a tick between my toes, capsizing in a kayak with no idea how to right the boat. This year, I’m determined to enjoy the season’s upside without the pitfalls. Here are some ways to help you have a safe, fun-filled summer.
- Drink up (and then drink some more)
First up, you want to be sure to have energy for long summer days. That means upping your hydration. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to take a sip (or three) of water, especially if you are engaged in any type of outdoor activity. Be aware, too, that exercise is not the only thing that can cause dehydration. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking alcohol within 24 hours of being outside can increase the risk of heat illness. Water is usually a better choice than energy drinks, which can include caffeine and sugar. “High caffeine levels can be risky when added to the strain placed on your body by heat,” warns the CDC report. I keep a refillable water bottle with me all day, which is better for my body and the environment.
Summer heat demands extra care when it comes to food. The Food and Drug Administration has these tips for safe picnicking: “Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be stored at 40 °F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another. That way, as picnickers open and reopen the beverage cooler to replenish their drinks, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures.” Hmmm, I’ve definitely been guilty of that.
- Timing is everything
Plan activities to avoid midday heat. Think sunrise yoga or sunset walks. When taking part in any outdoor activity, whether it’s pickleball (my new fave) or a hike, it’s important to know the signs of heat exhaustion. The CDC warns, “People at highest risk for heat exhaustion are the elderly, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in the heat.” Symptoms include excessive thirst, profuse sweating, headache, dizziness or confusion, and nausea. Along with the heat index, be sure to check the weather before going on a hike and plan an alternative activity if rain is forecast. You probably know this, but it bears repeating: If a thunderstorm threatens, do not duck under a tree. No matter where you are going, be sure to pack a hat, sunblock, lip balm and snacks. (Are you sensing a theme here?) I like mixing raisins, walnuts and chocolate chips in a baggie for a hit of energy.
- Swim for it
When it comes to the ocean, I have a healthy respect for the currents and always swim in lifeguard-protected zones, as should you. Even if you are strong swimmer, you should always wear a life vest when heading out on a boat, even canoeing on a calm lake. “Don’t go out on the water alone,” the National Environmental Education Foundation says. “Bring a friend or relative so you can watch out for each other and help if needed ... You might be surprised to discover strong currents, jagged rocks, submerged objects, and unpredictable weather ... If you’re not familiar with the area, get the low-down from a friend who’s been there, talk with a park ranger (if there is one), or do some online research before you go.”
- Don’t bug out
I once hit myself with a tennis racquet — hard — trying to get rid of a swarm of mosquitos that landed on my arm. This is not advisable! To ward off mosquitoes, the CDC recommends applying an EPA-registered insect repellent. If you are hiking, wear long pants and tall socks to limit exposure to ticks. Once you get home, check your clothes (the little bugs can lodge there too) then wash and dry them in high heat. Checking your body for ticks is a must. The CDC recommends you use a mirror to look under your arms, in and around your ears, inside your belly button (yuck), behind your knees, and in your hair. Don’t forget to check your pet too.
- Road trip SOS
Snacks and a good audiobook can make any road trip better. Along with goodies, you should have on hand a flashlight, first aid kit, extra batteries and a whistle to signal for help. According to the Cleveland Clinic, your first aid kit should include antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, instant cold packs, tweezers, self-adhesive wrap, scissors, bandages and pain reliever. Luckily, there are plenty of ready-made kits available online.
- Stop to smell the roses and see the stars
Most of all, summer should be about fun. It’s the time to slow down and enjoy nature. I highly recommend putting everything aside and just staring up at the wonders of the night sky. If you’re the type who likes to know what you’re looking at, try a free stargazing app like Star Walk 2, SkyView or Star Tracker. Personally, the only time I believe in multitasking during summer is when eating ice cream while I stargaze. Care to join me?
What's your favorite thing to do in the summertime? Let us know in the comments below.