Warm weather and longer days mean BBQ's, hikes and more. With more activities in the great outdoors, there is a higher risk for injuries, illnesses, and infections. In fact, 30% of all Canadian injuries occur in the summer months, more than any other season. Here are some tips to prevent common summer activity injuries to keep your sunny days going in full swing and prevent summertime sadness...
Don't Get Slowed Down: Sprains & Breaks
What it is:
- Sprains are the tearing of a ligament, tendon, or muscle. The most common areas are ankles and wrists.
- Breaks are a fracture of a bone. Common areas include fingers, toes, arms, feet, and ankles.
What to do: Stretch!
Combine recreational outdoor sports with our short summer season and you'll get several injuries from overexertion without proper preparation. The most important prevention you can take against a twisted ankle or broken bone is to make sure you begin any strenuous activity with adequate stretching and warming up (here's a dynamic full body routine to get you started). Even better would be to gradually strengthen the muscles, but if you've hibernated all winter instead of conditioning, it's even more crucial you don't skip on your warm up. Start off slow especially with repetitive movements, as overuse leads to strains such as Tennis/Golf Elbow.
What to do: Wear Protective Gear
From helmets and wrist guards to proper shoes and braces, protective gear can make or break your summer activities. Wearing the right equipment is an easy proactive step to preventing injuries. A common mistake is having ill fitting gear, so take the time to have a store attendant help fit you with your equipment. This is especially true for children as they are more accident prone and (as any parent will tell you) are constantly changing sizes. It's a good idea to go over your equipment at the beginning of the season to assess if it's still in good working condition. Throw out the old, donate good condition items that have been outgrown, and invest in new gear to keep your family protected and safe!
If you've already strained a limb remember to follow the RICE protocol:
- Rest - avoid walking or using the sprained area as much as possible
- Ice - for 20 minutes every hour
- Compression - use an elastic bandage to wrap the area firmly but not too tight
- Elevate - the area above the heart if possible
This protocol will help to speed up the healing. You can also take an over the counter NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help with pain and swelling. If it doesn't go away though, check in with a doctor to make sure it's not something more serious.
Heat Hazards: Sunstroke, Sunburns, & Dehydration
What it is:
- Sunstroke is a form of hyperthermia where the body temperature is dramatically raised (above 104°F).
- Sunburn is a form of radiation of the skin from overexposure of ultraviolet (UV) light.
- Dehydration is a harmful reduction in the amount of water in the body.
What to do: Use Sunscreen & Shade
Soaking up the sun not only gives you a great tan but also triggers the production of vitamin D in our bodies. This process has many benefits including helping to improve your mood and strengthen your bones. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure 2 to 3 times a week. Make sure not to burn though as it increases your chances of developing skin cancer. Use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher, for both UVA and UVB protection and reapply regularly. Sunglasses, hats, and thin layers can also help protect you against over exposure. To practice sun safety, consider when the hottest time of the day will be (usually 11am-5pm) and take plenty of shade breaks.
What to do: Drink Up
Stay properly hydrated be drinking water (2 liters a day!) to avoid sun illnesses. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, that are densely filled with micro-nutrients and a high water content, is a great alternative to getting your daily water quota in too. Keep in mind that caffeine and alcohol are diuretics so you'll want to limit your intake during sun exposure to avoid dehydration. Make it easy on yourself by keeping a refillable water bottle on nearby at all times. If you're the forgetful type, try setting a recurring alarm on your phone to remind yourself to take sipping breaks every 30 minutes.
If you've already suffered from sunstroke, sunburn, or dehydration:
- Relax in the shade or in air conditioning; avoid any exercise or unnecessary movement.
- Take a cold shower or bath. Apply cold clothes or ice packs to your head, neck, underarms, and groin.
- Slowly rehydrate with small sips of water and/or an electrolyte replacement beverage.
- Use aloe vera on sunburned skin to soothe and moisturize.
Following these easy tips will help to avoid sun related ailments but emergency treatment may be required. It is crucial to monitor symptoms as serious damage like organ failure can occur from heat related illnesses.
(Not So) Epic Meal Time: Food Poisoning, Cuts, & Burns
What it is:
- Food poisoning is an illness caused by bacteria or other toxins in food.
- Cuts are an opening, incision, or wound.
- Burns are an injury caused by heat or a flame,
What to do: Keep Food in the Safe Zone
As nice as it is to have a grazing selection to pick from at your neighborhood BBQ or picnic, hot weather is the perfect breading ground for bacteria. Make sure to put food away as soon as possible to avoid potential stomach problems later. Use coolers and ice packs to keep the food in the cool zone of 4 degrees Celsius or below. If you're unsure whether your meat is done or not, use a thermometer to double check the internal temperatures (here's a quick temperature chart). Wash your hands religiously too so that you're not spreading any bacteria around.
What to do: Be Smart with Sharp & Hot Objects
Grilling and camp fires come with the dangers of burns, it's important to use the proper equipment and to keep children at a safe distance. Classic camping meals can include cutting on an uneven surface and often with an old knife, so take the time to make sure you are practicing safe knife handling. That goes for your yard work as well, the summer months sees an increase in lawn mower related injuries. Avoid needless injuries by wearing long pants, closed shoes, and some type of glasses. Learn how to maintain your equipment properly or get a professional to service it.
If you've already suffered from food poisoning, cuts or burns:
- Slowly sip on clear fluids and get lots of rest for food poisoning. See a doctor if symptoms do not improve after 3 days.
- For a minor cut, clean the area and apply pressure to stop any bleeding. Dress the wound by using an antibiotic ointment and covering with a bandage. Major cuts require emergency medical attention.
- For a minor burn, run cold water over the area and apple a cold compress. Lightly cover with an ointment and gauze. Major burns require emergency medical attention.
Don't get stuck inside with a preventable injury, be good to your body so that you can have a safe and fun active summer!