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Going to the park for a picnic or playing sports can be extremely fun for the whole family or a group of friends.  This time of year is the primetime to do so, but you may want to be aware of some hazards that can arise from the beautiful warm weather.

If you are staying relatively sedentary and just having a nice picnic, heat may not have as extreme of an effect on you, but you should be aware of certain dangers.  First and foremost, protect your skin!  Skin cancer is very real and can happen to anyone, not just those with fair skin.  You do not have to have a burn to have skin damage from the sun.  It is recommended to use sunscreen that is water resistant, contains SPF 15 or higher, and has broad spectrum protection (i.e. UVA and UVB protection).  Don’t be stingy with how much sunscreen you put on. Put enough on that it takes a full minute to rub in. If you are going to be outside for an extended period of time remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hrs.  Also, don’t forget your lips.  They get just as much sun exposure, so use lip balm with at least SPF 15 in it and reapply with your regular sunscreen.  If you can avoid it, stay out of the midday sun.

If you are eating or cooking outside, the heat increases the chance for bacterial growth on food, so be cautious.  Remember to keep hot foods hot (at least 140-165 ºF) before serving and keep cold food cold (40 ºF or less).  In other words, keep the hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill until it’s time to eat and keep the cold food in the cooler opening it as infrequently as possible.  The total amount of time that food should be out at room temperature is 2 hours and if the temperature outside is 90 ºF or more then food should be discarded after only 1 hour.

If you chose to be active while outside in the heat, either playing Frisbee or football or just going for a run; there are a few things you should know.  Exercising in hot weather can increase your core body temperature and cause some negative effects.  When the core temperature increases during exercise, the body tries to cool itself by increasing blood circulation at the skin.  During this process, you heart rate rises while your body tries to pump more blood into the muscles that have been deprived of blood.  Humidity can further increase core temperature because sweat that is produced won’t evaporate in order to cool down the skin.  Conditions including heat cramps (no change in core temperature), heat exhaustion (core temperature increase up to 140 ºF), and heatstroke (core temperature increases greater than 140 ºF) can all occur due to exercising in hot weather.  Some possible symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

If any of these symptoms occur: stop exercising, get out of the heat, and hydrate with either water or a sports drink.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the key to avoiding heat-related illness is as follows:

  • Watch the temperature outside in order to avoid exercising on extremely hot days.
  • Get acclimated to exercising in the heat by easing into activity.
  • Know your fitness level and adjust your level of activity as tolerated.
  • Drink plenty of fluids so that your body can sweat and cool down. For more hydration information check out our previous dehydration blog here.
  • Dress appropriately with lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
  • Avoid midday sun so that you are exercising when the weather is cooler.
  • Wear sunscreen because sunburn decreases your body's ability to cool itself.
  • Have a backup plan like exercising inside or in a pool.
  • Understand your medical risks because certain medical conditions or medications can increase your risk of a heat-related illness.

Understand that if you have suffered from heatstroke in the past, you are more at risk to have a heat-related illness in the future.  Picnicking and exercising in the park can be fun, but please stay safe by following these guidelines and watching for warning signs of trouble.

Resources:

http://www.webmd.com/beauty/sun/how-your-skin-can-survive-summer

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/food-safety/safe-picnicking-grilling

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048167

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Now that the weather has warmed up, you may be getting the itch to head outdoors and hit the trails.  For some this may be a regular occurrence and little direction is needed, but for the novice hiker, there are some safety tips you need to know.

Hiking can be a very fun activity that keeps you active and healthy, but if you don’t take safety precautions and plan your hike out properly it can be dangerous.  First and foremost, don’t travel alone.  If the trail is short, well-marked, and is thinly forested then you are most likely safe to travel on your own; but as a rule, always have someone with you.  This is especially important for someone who is new to hiking.  Even for experienced hikers, if an injury occurs, having a travel companion can be extremely helpful in terms of applying first aide or going to get help.

Be prepared with supplies. It is highly recommended to have an emergency kit complete with:

  • Water (more than you expect to use)
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Small flashlight with extra batteries
  • Glowstick
  • Energy food
  • Brightly colored bandana
  • Trash bag (preferably a bright color – by poking a hole for your head, it can be worn as a poncho to stay warm and dry)
  • Aluminum foil (strips can be tied into tree limbs to reflect searchlights or molded into a bowl for water)

Yosemite National Park provides a list of safety tips in the form of the mnemonic HIKE SAFE.

  • Have a plan
    • Plan out your trip in order to be familiar with the trail you are taking and the estimated time that it should take. This will make you less likely to get lost and allows you to plan out the appropriate amount of supplies to bring.
    • Inform someone of where you're going and when you plan to return
      • By letting someone know your whereabouts and estimated return time, they can call the authorities or park ranger if you do not return.
      • Keep a flashlight and whistle with you
        • Even if you plan on traveling during the day, if you get lost or you are out later than you planned, having a flashlight and whistle can help you find your way or signal where you are to others.
        • Eat well, stay hydrated: carry plenty of water
          • Always pack more than you plan on using just in case you end up getting lost or are out hiking longer than planned.
  • Stay on the trail
    • Don’t stray from the path you are on because you will be much more likely to get lost and will have a more difficult time finding your way back to the trail.
    • Ask for HELP!
      • Asking for help when it is needed could save your life, especially when you are in unfamiliar territory.
      • Familiarize yourself with the area, use a map
        • Review a map before you set out on your hike so that you have a general idea of where you will be going and how the path will bend and turn.
        • Expect changes in the weather
          • Be prepared for rain, changes in temperature, etc. because the weather can be very unpredictable and the terrain you are on can change as the weather changes (ex. the sky darkening, branches falling, mud/mudslides, etc.).

The most important thing is to use common sense and be prepared for any situation.  Bring sufficient supplies, clean up after yourself, don’t feed any wildlife, familiarize yourself with the trail, and don’t overexert yourself on a long hike when you don’t know your fitness limits yet.  Hiking can certainly be a fun experience, but you don’t want to end up in a dangerous situation, so follow these safety tips for a more pleasant experience.

We hope that this blog was informative. If you have any questions on this topic or any others in which you are interested, feel free to leave any questions, comments, or suggestions. Thank you for reading and stay active.

Resources:

http://www.hikingbeginner.com/Hiking_Safety_Tips.html

http://gastateparks.org/Hiking-Safety

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hikingsafety.htm

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June is Men’s Health Month, so we at Advanced Physical Therapy and Fitness thought that we would do our part in educating on one particular men’s health issue: testicular cancer.  Testicular cancer is not a common cancer, especially in comparison to breast cancer in women; however, screening for it is pivotal. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 33, which means that examination should occur early in life. One particular form of examination is a self-exam. It is recommended that men perform a self-examination beginning at age 14.

So how does one perform a self-exam for testicular cancer? First off, self-examination is best performed after a warm bath or shower because the heat relaxes the scrotal muscles.  As per The Urology Care Foundation, the sequence of examination is as follows:

  • Examine the scrotum visually for swelling
  • Gently feel the scrotal sac to locate a testicle
  • Examine each testicle separately by firmly and gently rolling each testicle between the thumb and fingers of both hands to examine the entire surface

It is important to note that it is normal for one testicle to be lower or slightly larger than the other and to feel a cord-like structure (the epididymis) on the top and back of each testicle.  Each testicle should feel firm, but not rock hard.  Abnormal results include:

  • Finding a small hard lump (pea-size)
  • Swelling
  • Experiencing pain or tenderness
  • Any other concerning differences between the testicles

If any of these are discovered during your self-exam, contact your physician or urologist as soon as possible.

Despite the fact that this form of cancer is rare, it is still the most common cancer in men under 35 years of age.  Many testicular cancers are first discovered by men themselves or their sexual partners due to a lump or swollen testicle being felt.  Certain men are at a higher risk than others and should perform self-examination on a monthly basis.  Those at higher risk include men with the following:

  • Family history of testicular cancer
  • Past testicular tumor
  • Undescended testicle
  • Teenagers/young adults (ages 14 to about 35)

If this form of cancer is discovered early and is treated right away, there is a very high cure rate.  So don’t hesitate to contact your doctor regarding any abnormal examinations because the sooner the problem is detected and treated, the better the results.

We hope that this blog was informative. If you have any questions on this topic or any others in which you are interested, feel free to leave any questions, comments, or suggestions. Thank you for reading and stay active.

Resources:

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicularcancer/detailedguide/testicular-cancer-key-statistics

http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=101

http://www.webmd.com/men/guide/testicular-examination-and-testicular-self-examination-tse

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003909.htm

http://tcrc.acor.org/tcexam.html

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Disclaimer:  The information in this medical library is intended for informational and educational purposes only and in no way should be taken to be the provision or practice of physical therapy, medical, or professional healthcare advice or services. The information should not be considered complete or exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes without first consulting with your physical therapist, physician or other healthcare provider. The owners of this website accept no responsibility for the misuse of information contained within this website.