Summer in the mountains brings sunshine, wildflowers, and pristine views, but it can also bring insect bites, heat-related hazards, and injuries from biking and hiking.
Fortunately, a little prevention and planning can keep you and your family safe whether you’re heading for the hills, valleys or rivers during these warmer months.
“People should have a little respect for the mountains and the conditions they bring,” said Katie Perkins, nurse practitioner at UCHealth Urgent Care in Steamboat Springs.
Here are some expert tips for a variety of medical accidents and illnesses you may encounter.
Ticks and insects
Climate change has brought more tick-borne diseases to the Rocky Mountain region, Perkins said. Symptoms can often be non-specific and resemble a virus like the flu, with body aches and fever. However, a bite can cause other, more serious symptoms later on, which means the sooner you are treated, the better.
“Staying on the track is a really good idea,” she said. “Avoid deep grass or piles of old leaves and wear white socks to better spot ticks.”
If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers by pulling it straight out. Perkins recommends taking a picture of it to show your healthcare provider. Once removed, clean the area thoroughly with soap and water. If you don’t think you’ve removed all of the tick, if you start to develop a rash, or if other symptoms appear, see a doctor. And don’t forget to check your pets for ticks too.
For pesky mosquitoes, it’s best to wear long sleeves and a net around your face if you’re hiking or camping near calm water where they like to congregate. Products containing natural or synthetic repellents, such as lemon eucalyptus or DEET, respectively, can help keep ticks and mosquitoes away.
If you are stung by a bee, rather than squeezing, gently brush the stinger away with your fingernail or a credit card. Always have an EpiPen handy if you are allergic. An antihistamine such as Benadryl can be applied topically or taken by mouth for pain relief.
too much sun
Dehydration and the sun at altitude can cause problems.
“There are a lot of weekend warriors here, and if you get dehydrated it may be too late,” Perkins said. “You really have to pay attention to your symptoms.”
Start hydrating a few hours before your activity, and if you feel faint, stop and lie down in the shade with your feet up. Perkins is a fan of sports drinks or hydration tablets, which contain electrolytes because just drinking water can lead to dangerously low sodium levels.
If you still don’t feel well, you can apply ice packs to your armpits and groin. If that doesn’t help, she suggests going to a medical clinic.
And don’t forget sunscreen or sun-protective clothing, as well as a hat and sunglasses.
“Use at least SPF 30 and reapply every few hours because that’s key,” Perkins says. “If you do water sports in a river, choose an eco-friendly sunscreen made from minerals rather than chemicals.”
Certain medications can make you more sensitive to the sun, so consult your supplier or pharmacist for advice.
When it comes to hiking, climbing, biking, and backpacking, know your surroundings, appreciate your physical limits, and learn about weather conditions. Wear the necessary protective gear which is standard safety protocol for each sport.
“We’re able to treat the vast majority of injuries, but when it comes to your brain it’s a lot more difficult, so protect it with a helmet,” Perkins said.
For backpackers or campers, Perkins recommends bringing a child’s basic first aid and considering including a malleable aluminum structural splint, or SAM, to help immobilize bones and soft tissues in the event of an injury. emergency.
“There’s more danger in staying at home” and becoming sedentary, Perkins believes, so go out there and enjoy it — just be careful out there.
Mary Gay Broderick writes for UCHealth. She can be reached at [email protected].