The long summer vacation is on the horizon for many of us, and you might be thinking about the best way to spend those heady sun-kissed days with your family. Perhaps you have a camping trip planned? A beach holiday abroad? Walking in high mountains? A cruise? Boating holiday?
Many children and parents alike will make some of their best family memories on such trips, playing outdoors, enjoying nature and the sea or mountains together. Camping is particular is popular for families in summer as it is a cost effective way of you all getting together in the great outside.
However, you should also be aware that holiday trips are not without hazards. We have collated a list of 5 tips to protect your health while enjoying the great outdoors.
1. Sticky Business!
Kids like to play with sticks, it’s a fact. Sticks make great swords, digging implements and goal posts. But a stick in the eye can be a serious issue, painful and potentially sight threatening. The commonest injuries are corneal abrasions. Many eye scratches will heal rapidly on their own, but some can have a deeper component that needs an eye specialist to look at under a slit lamp if it has not healed in 24 hours. Or it could feel like there is something stuck in the eye, called a “foreign body (FB)”. An FB can be a small piece of grit or bark that sticks onto the front of the eye or gets lodged under the eyelid. If blinking and natural tearing does not wash the FB away, and still symptomatic after 24 hours, an eye specialist is required to take a look.
It’s important not to rub the eye or use any drops that have not been prescribed by an eye specialist. Blurred vision, headaches or sensitivity to light could be a sign of a corneal abrasion which has become infected, called “keratitis”, which can lead to permanent vision damage. Some so called superficial injuries from stick are actually much deeper, so if you or your child have any of these symptoms, or prolonged symptoms, they should get an eye examination as soon as possible.
2. Don’t Neglect Eye Hygiene
Campsites and outdoor holidays can be fun, but they can also be breeding grounds for bacteria, which can present a challenge for eye health. It’s particularly difficult for contact lens wearers, as it can be hard to ensure that your lenses cleaned properly and hygienically. It is best to wear daily disposable lenses for your camping trip, as these don’t need to be cleaned but can just be thrown away. Remember to always wash your hands! Take cleaning wipes if fresh clean water might be an issue. Don’t be tempted to keep your lenses in for longer than your eye doctor has recommended, as this can cause your eyes to become tired and dehydrated, especially in the sunshine or by the sea. Wear dark glasses to protect your eyes!
If in the countryside or near the beach, you need to wash all flying pollens, sand and dust off your eyelids and eye lashes at the end of the day.
3. Watch Out for Ticks
Ticks are becoming more common in the British countryside, especially in wooded areas and on or close to moorland. They can’t jump or fly, so the most likely way they will get at you is if you brush against them in long grass. Wearing trousers and socks and shoes is good protection, better still trousers tucked into socks or wellies!
If you or your child does get bitten, often there will be no symptoms. But a rash, which may be combined with flu-like symptoms, could be a sign of Lyme disease. This can be very serious so it’s important to seek medical help urgently.
4. Protect Yourself From the Sun
It seems so obvious to recommend sunscreen, but every year in the UK, hundreds of people attend hospital with severe sunburn and heat stroke. Clinica London recommends you using an SPF factor 50 against UVA and UVB to protect yourself, as well as staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day and wearing a hat.
Wear sunglasses. Your eyes need protection from the sun too, and it’s not just about choosing a fashionable pair of shades! You should look for sunglasses with UV 400 protection. This can eliminate 97-100% of UV rays from the sun. Polaroid sunglasses reduce glare and help protect your eyes.
5. Avoiding Bites, Stings and Rashes
The great outdoors brings many pleasures, but also sadly presents a fair amount of risks to the skin. Insect bites and stings can be painful and uncomfortable. Often these can be avoided by applying insect repellent about fifteen minutes before going outside and by wearing long sleeves, shoes, socks and trousers. This might be a challenge when the weather is hot, though! Most bites can easily be treated with over-the-counter treatments, but in the case of severe inflammation or the presence of any pus, you should seek medical advice.
Heat rash is another common skin problem caused by humid, hot weather. Symptoms include soreness, skin inflammation and red, itchy bumps. Heat rash usually goes away on its own, but if it lingers for more than a couple of days, you might need to see a specialist who can recommend special lotions to relieve itchy skin.
Enjoying the Great Outdoors Safely
Camping trips and summer holidays, whether by the sea, on a boat or in the mountains, can be a magical time for you and your family to enjoy nature and the big outside together. If you follow our tips above, then you should be able to avoid most of the common health risks and pitfalls of spending time outside in the summer.