SOME HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
June, the start of summer for many of us here in Maine. After any long cold winter and maybe a rainy spring too, we are all probably eager to get outside and enjoy the hopefully glorious weather to come. Whether we work outside for our jobs or enjoy being outside in our free time, here are some hazards & precautions to keep in mind.
Leptospirosis This somewhat rare disease is typically found in stagnant bodies of water that have been contaminated by the urine of infected animals. During any game or activity, consider not going into small untreated pools or other similar bodies of water that might be contaminated by animal urine to retrieve balls or other game equipment unless you have waterproof waders as the bacteria that causes this disease can be acquired through contact with contaminated water.
Erlichiolosis, Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever These are tick borne diseases that can be found here in the Northeast, there are others but the precautions are the same. Ticks will perch in low vegetation waiting for their next meal so it’s best to be cautious whenever entering a wooded or shrub like grassy area. Wearing light colored clothing enables you to see the ticks and brush them off. Use insect repellent that contains permethrine or DEET and focusing on applying it to any exposed skin paying special attention to your ankles and legs. Should you need to retrieve a wayward ball or other sports item in any of the questionable areas it would be wise to tuck your pants into your socks. You may not look fashionable but you will be keeping the ticks from crawling up your legs to feast. Because they are very small, you don’t usually feel them so you won’t know they are on you until they have attached themselves and transmitted their diseases to you. Looking fashionable does not seem all that important now does it?
Encephalitis, West Nile and Malaria Are but a few of the diseases carried by infected mosquitoes and summer is the season that mosquitoes are most active. Much like with the precautions for ticks, using a good repellent is advised. Even though we all want to look and smell our best, avoiding perfumes and after shave lotions is also suggested to avoid attracting insects.
Bites and Stings We do well to remember that there are a host of insects that can bite and sting including hornets, wasps, and bees. Summertime is a time when families vacation either here or other parts of the country where a whole new venue of biting and stinging critters such as poisonous snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas exist. If we are not used to these types of hazards and our minds are in ‘vacation’ mode we will more than likely fail to be on the lookout for them. Find out what can possibly be lurking in any area that you are not native to as part of your travel planning. This also applies for rest areas that are dotted all along the highways and byways as they also have grassy areas where you and/or your pet may be strolling.
Sun Exposure and Dehydration Many of us take advantage of every hour of daylight possible during this time of year to spend it outside which leads us to the risks of sunburn and dehydration. We have all heard about the risks of skin cancer from too much UV but sometimes when we are enjoying ourselves in wide open spaces with our friends it’s easy to forget exposed skin needs frequent application of sunscreen for protection. Cloudy days are no exception to this rule as we are still exposed to UV radiation. Dehydration can also be an issue. Here in the Northeast where it can be hot and humid and out west it can be hot and dry. In either case, please remember to take special care to continually hydrate yourself. It's safe to assume that an overnight stay in a hospital hooked to an IV drip because of dehydration wouldn't be one of your anticipated itinerary stops. Please also remember that alcoholic beverages should not be considered proper hydration and in some cases can actually make matters worse.
Lightening We may be outside when an unexpected thunder and lightening storm hits. While thunder in itself is not generally considered a hazard, lightning is and more so if you happen to be holding onto anything metal that could conduct electricity. Lightning will also seek out tall objects. With that in mind standing out in the middle of an open field is not the safest place to be as you would become the tallest object nor is taking cover under any trees you may find since they now become the tallest object with serious consequences to you underneath it. If the weather should turn nasty while you are out playing the safest place to be is either in your vehicle or in a building waiting for the weather to pass.
This Tip of the Month should start everyone thinking about the warmer weather hazards that we will be encountering and hopefully you haven’t been scared into locking yourself behind closed doors until the next snowflake flies. To summarize remember to use good repellent and good commonsense wherever you may go and whatever you may do.