5 Summer Safety Tips: Exploring Wooded Areas

By: Kristine Iotte

This is part 2 of a two part series on summer safety tips. Be sure to read part 1: 8 Essential Items for your Outdoor Workout Survival Kit.

If working out and exploring wooded areas, keep these safety tips in mind:

1. Be Prepared: Make sure you have all of the essential items from your Outdoor Workout Survival Kit.

2. Heat Exhaustion and Dehydration: These are common and go hand-in-hand while exercising outdoors, and can easily sneak up on you. Preventing them by staying cool and hydrated is key, but in case you find yourself feeling a little woozy while working out on a hot day, you may be dealing with one or both. Signs of heat exhaustion: becoming light headed, fatigue, dark urine, and if vomiting or diarrhea occurs with these symptoms, seek medical attention as it can become a serious health issue. If you experience any of these symptoms take a break from the sun and cool down—air conditioning or a dip in shallow cool water will help. Drink LOTS of water, and if it doesn’t seem to dramatically improve quickly, end your workout for the day.

3. Poison Ivy: Sorry guys, we aren’t talking about Batman’s sneaky green-clothed adversary—although the real kind can be just as tough to deal with. There are multiple types of Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac throughout the US, an easy way to identify whether it is in your region and what it looks like is to check here. The best way to avoid it is to stay on trail and avoid brushy areas, but the oils can get on your clothing if you brush by them and still get on you when you take them off. If it does reach your skin, a rash or even blisters may develop within 1-2 days and can last weeks, depending how your immune system responds to it. Some people are not allergic to it and exposure does not affect them, but most are not that lucky. Extreme cases may require hospitalization (of course if any breathing problems or swelling of the face occurs seek medical attention ASAP). It is advised to scrub your body as soon as possibly after coming in contact, this can minimize the chance of a full blown breakout.

If a breakout does occur thoroughly wash ALL the things you have come in contact with that the oil may have gotten into, this includes all clothes, bedding, etc. There are body washes specifically for this, such as Zanfel,Tecnu, and other over the counter body scrubs or a doctor may prescribe steroid shots.

4. Ticks: Most bugs are a real bother, but careful attention should be paid to ticks since they are difficult to detect and have one of the higher transmission rates of diseases. See if you are at risk of tick exposure in your region here. The best way to avoid them is to stay on the trail and do not walk through the brush. Ticks cannot jump, they hang out on blades of grass or other similar vegetation and wait for something to walk by and brush against their hideout and then they latch on. The larvae are as small as a piece of ground pepper, but the adults are a bit larger and easier to spot. Once they bite it takes 24 hours for them to completely latch on. A thorough self-examination in the shower after spending time in the woods to pick them off before that time frame is reached will dramatically reduce the chances of disease transmission.

Do not forget to check your pets as well! If you do find one embedded in the skin, when you are done screaming like a little girl, use a pair of tweezers and firmly grab the head as close to the skin as possible (do not squeeze the abdomen) and slowly pull it off. If you pull too hard and the head comes off, make sure you get the rest of it out of the skin and sanitize the area as best as possible. If a rash develops or you start to feel sick see a doctor immediately. Crazy tick fact: If bitten by a Lonestar tick you may develop an allergy to red meat!

5. Snakes: Most are harmless, but in the event that you are bitten, specifically by one that may be venomous, stay calm and immediately seek medical help. Do not attempt to get the venom out or apply a tourniquet. If your hand/arm is bitten keep it below your heart and clean the wound. If possible, try to remember the shape and coloring of the snake. Here is more information on common venomous snakes in the US including the regions they are found in.

If you utilize preventative behaviors, the chances of dealing with any of these things is very slim but it is always best to be prepared! Know what may roam around your region, pay attention to your surroundings, and have fun out there!