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The Great Outdoors:Warm Weather Tips and Precautions

As we move into the warmer months, we are all but assured to be spending more time outside. Taking measures to ensure a safe experience will help ensure an enjoyable experience with minimal discomfort for everyone.  IntellectAbility has created a document specifically for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help make the great outdoors more enjoyable for all. It’s called The Great Outdoors! Warm Weather Edition. Here are some of the document’s highlights, which can be freely downloaded at https://replacingrisk.com/idd-resources.

BY Craig Escude, MD, FAAFP, FAADM | June 2022 | Category: Summer Fun

The Great Outdoors:Warm Weather Tips and Precautions

Beating the Heat  :  Taking Measures to Ensure a Safe Summer

IntellectAbility created a document titled “The Great Outdoors! Warm Weather Edition” (https://replacingrisk.com/idd-resources), specifically for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help make the great outdoors more enjoyable for all. 

Sun Protection

The sun’s rays can cause sunburn in as little as 10 minutes. Here are some precautions to consider:

  • Limit exposure, especially during the hottest parts of the day between 10 AM and 2 PM
  • Use SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or greater
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, more frequently if sweating or swimming
  • Utilize clothing that has an SPF rating when available
  • Many Medications that can increase light sensitivity of the skin and/or eyes. Examples include some antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, antipsychotics, anti-seizure medications, and others. Discuss these with your pharmacist or physician. 

Hydration

Fluid loss is greater when people are in warmer climates, participating in physical activities, and actively sweating. Maintaining proper body fluid levels is essential.

  • Encourage fluid consumption regularly
  • Popsicles, sno-cones, and frozen juices can assist in maintaining hydration
  • Fruits and vegetables with lots of juice can help, like watermelon, peaches, plums, salad greens, radishes, cauliflower, and others
  • Consider intake of extra fluids before going outside or participation in physical activities

It’s important to know the signs of dehydration and to act fast. Signs include:

  • Skin dryness and tenting (not quickly returning to shape when gently pinched upward)
  • Eyes sunken
  • Dry mouth, lips
  • No tears
  • Darker colored urine
  • Decreased urine output
  • Change in level of consciousness

If any of these are noted, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.

Insects

Biting and stinging insects are an outdoor nuisance. Consider these steps to reduce the likelihood of interference with your fun:

  • Use insect repellent per the manufacturer’s instructions. Take caution not to overuse as too much DEET can be harmful to a person
  • Cover exposed skin when hiking as possible to reduce tick bites
  • Bright colored clothing attracts bees. Light clothing attracts ticks but repels mosquitoes
  • Inspect skin after outdoor activities looking for ticks and other insect bites
  • Avoid areas with fire ants
  • Have epi-pens available, if prescribed, for people who have severe allergic reactions

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

The most important things to do to reduce heat exhaustion and heat stroke are staying hydrated and limiting exposure to the sun and to indoor spaces that lack adequate air conditioning. People with disabilities and those over 65 years old are at particular risk. Freezing damp towels and placing them around a person’s neck can help one keep cool. Light-colored clothing absorbs less heat and is cooler than dark colors. Certain medications can block the body’s ability to cool down naturally, and extra precautions should be exercised. Here are signs of heat-related conditions:

Heat Exhaustion

  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness

Heat Stroke

(This is a medical emergency!)

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Absence of sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Elevated body temperature

A heatstroke is a medical emergency! Here is what to do:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Have the person lie down
  • Move the person to a shady, cooler area or an air-conditioned room or vehicle
  • Remove tight clothing or extra layers to facilitate cooling while maintaining dignity
  • Wipe exposed skin with cool cloths to reduce body temperature
  • Do not give oral fluids unless the person is alert and fully conscious

Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke. When signs are noted, seek medical assistance and help the person cool down using the steps above. Medications that can affect the body’s ability to cool down include certain diuretics, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, asthma drugs, antipsychotics, and others; it’s a good idea to consult with your pharmacist or physician to determine if they might have this property. 

Safety

Here are some general safety items to consider:

  • Uneven ground increases the risk of tripping and falling
  • Wear proper footwear for the activity (for example, do not wear flip-flops for a hike)
  • Pool areas can be slippery, as can mossy rocks near a lake or stream
  • Avoid poisonous plants such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac
  • Do not ingest plants and berries as many are poisonous
  • Pay attention to pollen counts when people have allergies
  • When humidity is higher, it is harder for a person to cool off, which can increase the risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion
  • Check on people who live alone to make sure their home is staying cool
  •  Never leave a person in a vehicle alone or without appropriate supervision for any period of time
  • Blisters can occur from shoes or ill-fitting clothing. Ensure correct fit and monitor for their appearance
  • Be aware of hazardous wildlife, including snakes, spiders, bears, scorpions, and others in your area
  • Have epi-pens available whenever someone is known to have severe allergic reactions. Always have two pens in case you need to repeat a dose before emergency help arrives
  • Review medications with a pharmacist regarding their effects on light sensitivity and body temperature regulation
  • Have a cell phone available and remain in areas of good signal unless other arrangements have been made for emergencies 

Experiencing the great outdoors is an essential part of life. With proper precautions, preparation, and safety awareness, the risks of outdoor activities can be minimized so enjoyment can be had by all. For additional tips and information, visit https://replacingrisk.com/idd-resources to download this and other free resources, including the cold weather edition of The Great Outdoors! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Craig Escudé is a board-certified Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Developmental Medicine, and is the President of IntellectAbility. He served as medical director of Hudspeth Regional Center in Mississippi and is the founder of DETECT, the Developmental Evaluation, Training and Educational Consultative Team of Mississippi. He has more than 20 years of clinical experience providing medical care for people with IDD and complex medical conditions and is the author of “Clinical Pearls in IDD Healthcare” and the “Curriculum in IDD Healthcare.” 

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