Now that the weather has warmed up in most parts of the country, many Americans are planning to enjoy some outdoor excursions. Not only can this be a great way to appreciate the beauty of nature, but these activities are often safer in terms of coronavirus transmission.
That said, you can’t throw all caution to the wind as soon as you walk outside your front door. You’ll need to take proper precautions to do your part in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Moreover, you’ll also need to be careful about protecting your health and safety in other ways this summer. While there are currently 472,560 primary care physicians operating throughout the U.S., anything you can do to ease the burden on our overworked healthcare system will be a relief. The fewer visits you have to make for heatstroke, serious sunburn, or insect-related diseases, the better off we’ll all be. Here are a few tips you’ll want to remember to truly enjoy the great outdoors this summer.
Always Use Sun Protection
The gradual development of facial wrinkles is a classic early sign of skin damage and aging. But you can prevent both wrinkles and serious damage due to sun exposure if you protect your skin at all costs. You should take care to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher and be sure to reapply every couple of hours as directed. You should also supplement with sun hats, clothing with long sleeves and pant legs, and sunglasses.
As a rule, try to stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day (e.g., when the sun is at its highest point). Seek out a shady spot or stick to indoor activities during these hours to avoid too much sun exposure. If you go swimming, which is one of the safer public activities in terms of COVID-19 transmission, be sure to reapply sunblock afterward. Keep in mind that a beach or pool umbrella won’t do much to keep UV rays away, so don’t dally for too long after taking a dip. Whether you’re out in the sun or not, you should stay hydrated to protect yourself from heat-related illnesses. If you notice you feel dizzy, have a severe headache, or you’re confused, get out of the sun right away and get hydrated.
Follow CDC Recommendations
Although the risk of transmitting COVID-19 might be lower in the summer than in the winter, it’s important to note that the potential for exposure might be on the rise due to reopening businesses. Even if outdoor spaces are considered safer than indoor ones, you still need to protect yourself and others around you by practicing social distancing, wearing face masks, and engaging in frequent hand-washing. You should continue to steer clear of crowded parks and public beaches for the time being; if you’re itching to go to these spots, pick a time that isn’t so popular and plan to stay for only a short while. If you’re feeling under the weather, even if you don’t believe you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay home so as not to expose others (particularly those with weakened immune systems).
Wearing face masks is a particular conundrum for many Americans as outdoor temperatures rise. To make this practice a bit more comfortable in the heat, choose a mask made of breathable fabric and ensure the fit is adequate without being too tight. It’s a good idea to bring extra masks along with you so you can swap out when needed and to limit your outings for the sake of lowered transmission and comfort. Be sure to wash your face and moisturize after wearing a mask to minimize rashes and breakouts. As a rule, try not to wear makeup under your mask.
Avoid Insects and Poisonous Plants
You might be worried about run-ins with people who aren’t following COVID guidelines, but you’ll also need to be concerned about natural hazards like bugs and plants. Experts have actually predicted that this summer will bring about a population boom for mosquitoes, so you should invest in proper protection to stave off itchy bites and possible disease. The EPA recommends repellents that contain ingredients like DEET, IR3535, Picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Although certain essential oils and citronella candles may help, you really need to use a spray or lotion to ward off pesky mosquitoes. You should watch out for ticks, as well (fortunately, many mosquito repellents also work on ticks!). Wearing long shirts and long pants in wooded or grassy areas can also be helpful. You should also conduct tick checks when coming in from outdoor activities.
One of the best ways to avoid exposure to poisonous plants is to learn how to identify them. Since 85% of Americans are allergic to poison ivy, it pays to be able to recognize it when you see it along a pathway. While poison ivy can look like shrubs, bushes, or vines, it always grows in clusters of three leaves (with one larger leaf on the end of the steam surrounded by two smaller leaves). Poison oak also has three-leaf clusters, but they look more like oak leaves and may be hairy or furry on the sides. If you think you’ve been exposed to a poisonous plant, be sure to wash the area with soap and warm water as soon as possible and wash the clothes you were wearing at the time. Avoid scratching as much as possible, take lukewarm baths with topical products, or use an oral antihistamine.
Although the outdoors have been hailed as a safe space during the pandemic, the truth is that there are many dangers that can lurk there — and ruin your summer in the process. But your home might not be so safe either; in fact, as many as one in 15 U.S. homes have high levels of radon. Just like you’d monitor your home’s sump pump, you should take care of yourself outside, too. Be sure to follow these tips to reduce your risk of illness and injury so that you can enjoy some of your favorite seasonal activities with confidence.