Good fortune favors the well-prepared. Severe weather, wild animals, rugged terrain, and equipment failure all conspire to create or complicate medical hardships that must be diagnosed swiftly and remedied with certainty. However, with some advance preparation, individuals and families planning vacations or outdoor excursions can become familiar with adverse situations and be prepared to handle them.
- Use common sense: Many accidents occur because people ignore warning signs or don’t anticipate problems. Pay attention to rangers, posted warnings, weather reports, and the experience of seasoned guides. The art of outdoor medicine absolutely depends on observation, anticipation, and resourcefulness. The cardinal rule is to act conservatively and not take unnecessary risks when making the decision to continue a journey or to postpone travel and seek formal medical attention.
- Stay hydrated: Most people underestimate their fluid requirements. The average minimum recommendation for an adult man is two to three liters of liquid a day, but this requirement can double in hot temperatures, during heavy exercise, at high altitudes, or in cold, dry air. Carry supplies for water disinfection if natural sources of safe drinking water will not be available.
- Protect your skin: Sunscreen should be applied to cool, dry skin for optimal absorption, and at least 10 minutes before swimming. In general, most sunscreens should be re-applied every 20 minutes to two hours. Be aware that use of insect repellent containing DEET lowers the effectiveness of sunscreen by a factor of one-third. On the other hand, taking aspirin or ibuprofen six hours before sun exposure may help protect the sun-sensitive person. Mild to moderate sunburn may be treated with cool, wet compresses applied for 10 to 20 minutes.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s tips on staying safe while playing, hiking, or climbing outdoors.