Northwest Arkansas is an incredible place for outdoor enthusiasts. There’s no shortage of opportunity for outdoor recreation in the Natural State. We have great rivers and lakes for paddling and fishing, wonderful woods and forests for camping, and an abundance of trails for hiking and mountain biking. Spending time in nature is fun and exciting, and it’s good for your health. However, there are health risks that you have to prepare for when spending time outdoors.The things that make outdoor recreation so enjoyable — sunshine, wildlife, and beautiful scenery in remote locations — are the same things that can make spending time outdoors dangerous. Make sure you're prepared for your next outdoor adventure. Click To Tweet
Some of the most beautiful places are the hardest to reach. However, the further off the beaten path you go, the more prepared you need to be.
- Travel with others.
- Always tell people where you are going and when you plan on being back.
- Carry a basic first aid kit.
- Use good judgement.
- Have a plan for medical emergencies.
Too much exposure to sunlight can cause sunburn, skin damage, and it can lead to some dangerous illnesses.
- Seek shade, go slow, and drink lots of water.
- Make sure that you protect your skin by wearing a full spectrum sunscreen and long, loose-fitting clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Wear a wide brim hat and sunglasses to protect your face and neck.
Make a point to drink plenty of water while spending time outdoors. You should carry at least 2 liters of water per person. You need even more water than usual when it’s hot outside, or you are being physically active.
- Do not drink water from natural sources; you can’t tell whether water is potable by its appearance.
- Moving water and clear water aren’t necessarily safe to drink.
- Drinking untreated water puts you at risk for illnesses from contaminants such as cryptosporidium, E. coli, and giardia.
Many animals — including bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes — can carry rabies. Rabies virus spreads to people or pets through bites and scratches. Approaching wildlife also puts you at risk for animal attacks.
- Always observe your surroundings and look for signs of animals.
- Never approach a wild animal.
- Don’t leave food out in the open.
When people think about dangers of the great outdoors they tend to think of things like bears, cougars, and snakes. People don’t always think about dangerous plants. You’re far more likely to encounter poison ivy than a bear, however.
Some people have more severe reactions to urushiol — the oil in poison oak and poison ivy responsible for causing dermatitis — than others. If you don’t know how you react to these plants, err on the side of caution and avoid them.
- Know how to identify poisonous plants, and keep away from them.
- Wash your skin thoroughly after coming in contact with poison ivy.
Bug bites can cause pain or discomfort, but they can also be dangerous. Vector-borne diseases are illnesses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas.
- Apply insect repellent to keep ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers away.
- Wear pants and shirts with long sleeves to limit exposed skin
- Do not scratch bites. Scratching bug bites can break the skin and lead to infection.
You don’t have to be in great shape to spend time in the great outdoors. Physical fitness is important, though. Being in good physical condition can help you enjoy your time outdoors and help you avoid accidents or injuries.
- Being physically fit makes outdoor activities easier and more enjoyable.
- Good strength and balance can help prevent slips, trips, and falls.
- Being fit and healthy can help prevent accidents due to physical fatigue.
Know when to talk to your doctor
Maybe you forgot to put on sunscreen, you have an unusual rash, or you twisted your ankle while hiking. Don’t assume that your health issue isn’t significant enough for you to seek medical care. You can talk to your primary care physician for any of your health concerns.
If you can’t wait to get in to see your doctor, visit an urgent care clinic. MANA Urgent Care clinics provide walk-in care for non-life-threatening medical emergencies.