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Spending Time Outdoors on Memorial Day Weekend? Then These Safety Tips are for You

With the long Memorial Day holiday weekend that marks the unofficial start of summer approaching, many people will be looking forward to spending time with family and friends getting some sun, socializing and being outdoors.

But, whether you’re going swimming, grilling, hiking, camping, road tripping or boating, it’s always prudent to keep safety at the top of your mind as you venture out this weekend.

Dr. Fred Alamshaw, chief of Family Medicine with Kaiser Permanente Southern California, offers some simple advice on how to enjoy the long weekend without jeopardizing your health.

“One of the most important things to remember is to stay hydrated while you’re out in the sun,” Dr. Alamshaw said. “The risk of heat stresscan come on unexpectedly and, if not realized, can turn into a heat stroke pretty quickly.”

Dr. Alamshaw urges you to pay attention to your body for signs of heat exhaustion.

“If you experience headaches, lightheadedness, nausea, confusion, irritability or an upset stomach, stop sweating and try to cool off, get out of the sun, drink more water or an electrolyte replacement like Gatorade, and if you’re not improving, please seek medical attention,” Dr. Alamshaw said.

If you’re planning a day at the beach or being part of other outdoor activities such as sports, Dr. Alamshaw encourages you to take the following precautions:

  • Bring all of the necessities for the day in the sun — plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat and maybe even a hand-held fan if it is warm outside.
  • Take breaks in a cool, shady place instead of spending all of your time in the sun.
  • If you’re going swimming, keep an eye on your kids and avoid distractions like texting, reading or socializing.
  • If you’re on a beach or pool, make sure there’s a lifeguard on duty or designate someone to keep an eye out.
  • If you or your children aren’t the best swimmers, there’s no shame in that; wear those life vests or floaties (for the kids).
  • If you’ll be drinking alcohol, although it may feel like you’re hydrating, it actually does the opposite, so drink in moderation and make sure you’re balancing it with plenty of water intake too.
  • Also, avoid drinking while swimming. Cramps, impaired judgment, disorientation and drowning are unfortunate but true risks.

If you love hiking, and it’s a beautiful day outside, why not get some fresh air, right? Yes, totally! But consider avoiding hiking during the hottest time of the day (noon to 3 p.m.) and instead, get an early start.

“If you’re in the sun, please wear a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher,” Dr. Alamshaw said. “If you’re going to be around water, consider water resistant sunscreen. But either way, still reapply throughout the day because sunscreen does wear off. If you’re going to be in the sun for more than two hours, no matter what the activities are, pack that sunscreen with you for some touch ups here and there.”

And you may not have ever thought of it, but there’s actually a “good” wardrobe to wear when you’re set out into the sun for a hike, according to Dr. Alamshaw.

  • Wear light colors that reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them by dark colored clothes. You may want to consider purchasing clothing that has a SPF label on them, available at camping/hiking stores or online.
  • Wear loose, lightweight breathable clothing – like nylon or polyester – to help regulate body temperatures.
  • Wear sturdy shoes – don’t go barefoot or with flip flops.
  • And cover up with a lightweight long sleeve shirt or use sun sleeves – it may seem counter intuitive to put on extra clothes in hot weather, but the added coverage can actually protect you from the UV rays coming from the sun above.
  • Wearing hats or bandana that can be dunked in water to cool your head and neck are also great accessories to the hiking wardrobe.
  • Even socks matter! Choose wool or synthetic socks, never cotton, to help keep you cool and to also prevent blisters and uncomfortable hiking journeys.

And although rare, snakes do exist on our hiking trails in Los Angeles, so keep an eye out for them, especially rattle snakes, said Dr. Alamshaw, who practices in Orange County. They generally want to avoid you as much as you probably want to avoid them. But there are certain steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Stick to open trails with good visibility. If you hear the rattle, don’t panic, just try to stay clear.
  • In the rare event that there is a bite, do your best to stay calm but act quickly. Don’t place a tourniquet or pressure, instead remove anything that may constrict the swelling, such as your shoes or a watch, depending on where the bite is, and get to the hospital or call 911 as quickly as possible.
  • Carry a little backpack for snacks and to hold your cellphone in case of an emergency like that unexpected bite, and of course, for that hydration… Remember again… Hydrate frequently! AND… don’t forget to bring the sunscreen!

“Taking precautionary steps will help you enjoy Memorial Day weekend while ensuring that you and your loved ones can be safe and avoid a trip to the emergency room,” said Dr. Alamshaw.