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Focus On Health: Preparing for the Great Outdoors

By Dr. Trina Ting

This is the time of year when we can all finally put away the winter boots and coats for good, retire the snow shovels, and get the bbqs ready for the spring and summer weather. We might be braving hail and snow one day, then in shorts the next. We’ve been hibernating all winter long and the sun, pollen, and fresh air feel foreign to us again. We start digging away at our garden and overdo it. How do we best prepare to be outdoors again?

Sun Protection

Go through your stock of sunscreen, toss out any expired ones, and make sure it’s ready to grab by your door for when the sunny days begin and are here to stay. The best sunscreen is the one you use: whatever is easiest to apply and reapply (this is the most important step) is the ideal one for you.

In addition to sunscreen, after you’ve put away your winter hats, pull out the wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. Consider investing in long sleeve rashguards or UV protective clothing if you are exposed to a lot of sun or planning a beach vacation. No matter your genetic predisposition, every sunburn you get greatly increases your risk of skin cancer.

Look at your backyard and consider where you spend your time, and consider moving chairs to the shade or installing an umbrella.

Bugs and Pollen

If you have seasonal allergies, you are probably dreading the first bloom of the trees. It can be a challenging few weeks, and if it’s very windy, the pollen count can be that much higher. Ensure the filters in your furnace are changed frequently (including in your car), and spend more time inside on high pollen count days. This information is readily available on weather websites like The Weather Network.

Bugs naturally start trying to work their way into the houses too, and while often not toxic or deadly, they are a nuisance. Take a moment to inspect any cracks in the doors and sealants around your windows, and fill where necessary. Where’s there’s one ant, there are thousands more waiting for food.

Prepare Your Body for Yard Work

The first gardening weekends often bring about muscle aches and strains from doing an activity that hasn’t been done winter. Prolonged squatting or kneeling strains the knees. Repetitive bending from digging or tidying hurts the back. It is important to do some light stretches before you work in the yard or garage, but it’s more important to pay attention to proper form. Some general tips to avoid injury:

Nose with toes: Avoid twisting your upper body away from your lower body when doing any garden work. Move your feet instead to position your body in line with what’s in front of you.

Get Help With Heavy Lifting: Avoid lifting a lot at once. Bend with your knees and carry the load closer to your body.

Invest in the Right Equipment: It helps to get the right tools and ensure that your current tools are in good shape. Most new tools have ergonomic handles and grips that make work much more comfortable and you less likely to get an injury to your hands or elbows. If you have old tools with wooden handles that are difficult to grip, it may be worth donating them and upgrading to ones that won’t cause strain to the body. Let the tools do the work, not you.

After nearly 6 months of being stuck indoors or wading through snow, it can be quite the shock to the system to suddenly be exposed to the sun and spring air again. We are excited to do all of the summer activities we missed doing all winter: a little bit of preparation can avoid a lot of injury. These are just some of the spring events we need to prepare for. What else are you excited to get back to?

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