Being outdoors in the wilderness has many positive health benefits. Most folks who enjoy camping will agree that it does lift their spirits. However, it comes with risks, as with almost anything else. With preparedness and caution, these can be mitigated. We recommend making sure you are healthy and fit before taking off to your favorite campsite, lake, or trail. Your safety and that of others could depend on your health and fitness.
Camping should be safe, and with the right steps, you shouldn’t have many issues. However, there are some health related issues you should consider. Below, we’ll talk about some of the common health issues you should be aware of for your own safety, and those in your party.
The campfire is an integral part of the camping experience. For most, a camping trip isn’t complete without a fire. It doesn’t matter how you enjoy the campfire. Whether you are cooking a meal, just hanging out, telling stories (even scary ones!) or just relaxing in the joy of it, you should take precautions to minimize burns and smoke inhalation.
Folks with asthma, bronchitis or breathing difficulties may find the hearty smoke from a campfire irritating and bothersome. If you have a medical problem with your lungs or breathing, a campfire can cause agitation and may make your condition worse.
Campfires are beautiful and humbling, especially with good company. That being said, burns are a serious health hazard to those who aren’t prepared. It’s very important to be careful around a fire, as you can permanently injure yourself if you are not careful. First aid could not be immediately available. A burn injury could also lead to infection if one isn’t careful.
The flora is one of the better parts of camping in the great outdoors. The smells and sights of vegetation can be a refreshing and relaxing sight for a camper. However, not all plants are safe! Be on the lookout for poison ivy, poison sumac, or poison oak. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these plants before you head out.
The oils of these plants can be dangerous to your skin. Rashes or allergic reactions can develop. You may not even notice any symptoms up to even eight or forty eight hours. Be sure to cover up, with long sleeved shirts and pants. Small children, pets, and the elderly are especially vulnerable.
There are several important things to consider about water safety and the health risks around it. In regards to drinking water from a natural source, looks can be deceiving. Even if the water looks clean, it may not be 100% potable. There can be microbes, dangerous bacteria, and even feces.
Aside from drinking water, there are health risks and dangers from swimming. Whether you are swimming, canoeing, or even just splashing around, there are risks. Leaches can be particularly nasty and are fairly common. Drowning is obviously a massive risk, so be sure you are well prepared with flotation devices and life jackets. It’s a good idea to know the lake beforehand, and if it’s a popular camping spot, there may be broken glass lurking beneath the surface. Always wade in feet first, to check the depth. Be sure to wear water shoes, or flippers to protect your feet from sharp rocks and potentially hidden objects
Although camping can and should be a beautiful experience with nature, it is important to know that the wilderness is home to many creatures and animals. It can be hard to be vigilant at all times, and all it takes is a small bite to cause problems.
Some spiders and snakes are venomous or poisonous, it’s best to keep your distance and leave them be. Different areas have different animals, be sure to do your homework, especially if you are in an unfamiliar place.
Ticks carry a bacterial illness that causes Lyme disease, which in itself is very nasty. Be sure to keep an eye on any pets or small children with you. The effects of global warming are actually causing the North American tick population to slowly migrate northwards. So even if you know an area is tick free, it may not be in a couple of years.
It can sometimes take a whole day or two for the effects of a tick’s bite to be apparent. Be sure to check out your hair, and your pets. If you see a bulls-eye shaped rash appear a couple of weeks after, seek medical attention immediately, as you have likely been bitten by a tick and have contracted Lyme disease.
The warm, sunny weather is one of the best parts of camping. That being said, prolonged sun exposure has some serious health risks. Heat stroke and sunburn can be very dangerous if not mitigated appropriately. Elderly folks, children, and those with fair skin are at an increased risk. Some signs and symptoms of excessive sun exposure are;
There are risks that come along with anything. Camping can be dangerous, and there are health and safety risks involved. Consider your medical history and those that are going with you. Be aware of the dangers in your area. Camping should be fun and relaxing, and if you keep safety in mind, there is great joy to be had. As always, have fun and stay safe. Happy camping!