It’s not rocket science, but it is science: Researchers from the University of Exeter in the UK claim to have hit upon the weekly recommended dose of nature necessary to make a positive impact on health and well-being. The large study, published in Scientific Reports, confirms what we already know about the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature. But now that we have an actual, scientifically based goal—a minimum of 2 hours per week—we can plan to make those minutes really count.
And it doesn’t have to be far from home or all 2 hours in one chunk. Spending even small amounts of time in urban green spaces, the neighborhood park or at the beach—provided the total adds up to at least 120 minutes a week—can significantly boost your health and mood.
There’s only one problem with getting back to nature: nature doesn’t always love us back. Here are 5 tips to help you get your dose of the great outdoors while staying safe from outdoor health hazards.
Update your first-aid kit.
In addition to the basics, add these items to your first-aid kit to make it summer/outdoor ready:
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Sterile tweezers
- Instant ice packs
- Ear drops
- Index card with physician’s phone number and emergency contact information
Drink like a fish.
We’re talking about water, people! Here’s another scientific fact: Most Americans—an estimated 75%—are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration can cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches, brain fog, irritability, constipation, muscle cramps and much worse. If you’re outside in the heat, especially if you’re doing any physical activity, you really need to pay attention to your water intake to avoid heat-related illnesses. Make sure you drink enough water so that:
- You’re rarely thirsty
- Your urine is consistently clear to a light straw color
Pour yourself a shot.
Once again, we’re not referring to happy hour, but to how much sunscreen the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says you need for protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA rays (the ones that cause wrinkles) and UVB rays (the ones that burn skin) and go for 30 SPF or higher. Same goes for your sunglasses.
Don’t let nature bug you.
They fly, they crawl, they sting, they bite. From allergic reactions to serious diseases caused by insects such as ticks and mosquitos, bugs can put the kibosh on your outdoor me-time. Here are a few tips to help keep pests from getting under your skin.
- Cover up with appropriate clothing and shoes when around bug habitats
- Apply insect repellent with at least 20% DEET; if you are also applying sunscreen, always put it on first
- Keep your yard free of standing water and brush piles
- Avoid bright-colored, flowery clothing and sweet-scented beauty products
- Bring your epi-pen along
Steer clear of snakes.
Many of the same precautions for insects apply to snakes. You should always wear closed-toed shoes and long pants when traipsing through tall grass or near water. Most snakebites happen from accidentally stepping on a snake. If someone is bitten and you think it may have been a snake, it’s important to get them to the ER right away. A local, full-service emergency room is best equipped to assess the extent of the injury and administer the correct antivenin if necessary.
Above all, don’t panic and never:
- Apply ice or anything topical to the bite area
- Try to cut or suck the venom out
- Capture or take a picture of the snake unless it’s safe to do so
If you go a little overboard while getting your weekly recommended dose of nature, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.