When it’s sunny in the Northwest, residents flock to our many forests, beaches, mountains and parks. But spending time outside can bring new or unexpected issues. Dr. Rick Bowles of Pacific Medical Centers offers a few simple ideas to keep everyone safe and sound while enjoying the great outdoors this season.
“The first thing that comes to mind is that people want to hike when it’s beautiful and sunny and often forget sun protection,” explains Bowles, a Family Medicine specialist with more than 25 years’ experience. The American Cancer Society agrees, saying, “UV rays reach the ground all year, even on cloudy or hazy days… People in some areas may get sunburned when the weather is still cool because they may not think about protecting themselves if it’s not hot out.”
Another safety tip makes any day more fun: the buddy system. While the materials you bring along—water, bandages, maps and more—vary by your activity’s intensity or geography, bringing a buddy is the perfect backup in case of emergency. On a recent hike, Dr. Bowles and his wife aided an injured walker out alone. With limited cell phone reception and no one to lean on, even a simple twisted ankle left her stranded.
The simple act of recreating with someone else provides a safety net should something go wrong. Not only that, but sharing the experience with someone else can enrich the adventure for you both.
Once you’re done exploring, don’t forget to do a quick once-over on your body. Western Washington isn’t plagued by nearly as many outdoor pests as other parts of the state, but check for ticks, bites, scrapes and scratches that may need attention and administer appropriate treatment promptly.
Exploring the outdoors and staying active is important for all ages throughout the entire year. We don’t all need a copy of Wilderness Medicine (“The Bible of outdoor medicine and really fun to read!” says Bowles), but with a little preparation, time spent outside benefits body, mind, family and friendships.