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Four things to look out for on your next outdoor trip

August 30, 2021 • read

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Four things to look out for on your next outdoor trip

As you rush to soak up the dog days of summer, it’s normal to want to pack in as much fun as possible, and outdoor excursions are high on everyone’s list. But without safeguards, an outdoor trip can turn sour quickly. Luckily, you can take proper precautions with just a little bit of planning. Here’s what to look out for on your next outdoor trip.

Stay water smart

The joys of a cool dip on a hot day can make you lose sight of how dangerous water can be. But, there are hundreds of unintentional drowning deaths in Canada every year. Whether you’re lounging by the pool, spending the day at the beach, or jumping off the cottage dock, there are a few things to keep in mind. Even the strongest swimmer can have issues from time to time, and you never know when you might need to call your swimming buddy for help. So whether you’re an ironman competitor or a beginner, never swim alone. Just as importantly, never leave children unattended in or around water. Even a kiddie pool can prove dangerous to a little one, and drop-offs, undertows, and strong currents can happen suddenly. 

Boating is another favourite Canadian pastime with the potential for trouble. Luckily, small changes can have big impacts when it comes to water safety. Wearing a life jacket on the water whether you’re in a boat, a kayak, or a seadoo is a must. And similar to drinking and driving, it’s illegal to operate a boat if you’re impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Beat back the mosquitoes

Nothing ruins a great outdoor trip faster than a swarm of bugs — especially if they’re mosquitoes. Mosquitoes often cause extra anxiety these days as they can sometimes carry West Nile virus. The good news is that while some mosquitoes do carry it, the majority don’t, and less than 1% of those who get West Nile virus develop severe symptoms.

Whether you’re worried about West Nile virus or not, however, no one likes to get bitten. You’re not going to be able to stop every mosquito bite, but with a couple of tricks, you can minimize the number you get. Wear loose-fitting clothing with a tight weave like nylon or polyester, and don’t scrimp on the bug repellent. For mosquitoes, you’ll want to choose one with icaridin or DEET — remember to check the label before spraying children though, as not all products are safe for all ages. 

Stay tick-free

While the occasional mosquito bite isn’t usually an issue, many people feel more squeamish about ticks. Ticks are becoming more common in many parts of the country, and can often carry Lyme disease — a potentially serious infection. Ticks like to hang out along the edges of trails or in wooded areas where they can hop off onto an unsuspecting meal. To avoid becoming their dinner, wear long sleeves and tuck your pants into your socks. You’ll likely want to add an insect repellent as well if you’ll be spending time in a known tick area. Once home, you should check yourself and any loved ones thoroughly. Ticks often end up in hidden areas like the scalp or behind the ears. They can also hitch a ride on clothing and bite you once you’re home. To kill any unwanted hitchhikers, you can throw your hiking gear in the dryer for 10 minutes.

If you do find an attached tick, pull it out with tweezers or a specialized tick remover without twisting or crushing it. Any flu-like symptoms, rash, or joint pain following a tick bite should be discussed with a doctor immediately.

Pack smart for food safety

Packing a meal is a must for most excursions, but storing your picnic requires as much thought as planning the menu. Bacteria grow quicker in the heat, making food poisoning a greater risk once the weather warms up. Perishables can go bad pretty quickly in a hot knapsack. If your food changes colour or texture, or develops a new smell, it’s time to throw it out. 

During the summer, Health Canada recommends that you leave food out at room temperature for less than an hour. Between 4℃ and 60℃ is considered the danger zone, and harmful bacteria can colonize your tuna sandwich in as little as two hours. Even if your food seems normal, if it has been out that long in that temperature range, it’s better to toss it than to chance it. You can’t always smell or even taste when food is unsafe. If you’re packing a picnic and know you’ll be out for most of the day, load it into an insulated bag or cooler, and don’t cut back on the ice packs. You’ll also want to prevent cross-contamination by sealing items separately in individual containers – nothing’s worse than a lovely summer salad marinated in raw burger juice. Finally, practice proper hand sanitation before you dig in. If you know you won’t have access to running water and soap for hand washing, be sure to bring along some hand sanitizer.

Getting outside is one of the great joys of summer — plus, it’s good for your health. Make sure it stays that way by planning ahead. With some small modifications, your next outdoor trip can be fun as well as safe.

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