With sports and extra-curricular activities put on hold, many people have flocked to the wilderness for activities such as biking, boating and hiking.
While Ryan Crim, MD, a physician at WellSpan Convenient Care in Carlisle, gets to care for people that may develop a rash or even a bug bite in their outdoor travels, he’s also a person you may see on a hiking trail near you.
An avid outdoorsman, Crim spends a lot of his time gardening and taking long walks in the woods with his family and dogs.
He feels that this summer is more important than ever to reinforce safety with a higher volume of foot traffic on trails as well as people trying new outdoor activities for the first time.
Before addressing any of the physical aspects, Crim recognized mental health effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly in part to isolation without regular social interaction.
“This has been a trying time. We need to focus on doing things that keep us sane which include exercise, good food, reaching out via alternative means to family and friends, and taking care of yourself,” Crim explained.
He added that healthy activities such as hiking or long walks in the woods have become increasingly popular.
Before engaging the wilderness, Crim added a personal touch to some safety tips:
Social interactions: There is something on the Appalachian Trail called “Trail Magic.” I have been the recipient and the giver on multiple occasions. So, when you are out hiking, engage with others. Keep as socially distant as possible, but a quick nod or hello is good.
Footwear: Pennsylvania is rocky, and one of the most rocky parts is the Appalachian Trail, which runs through southcentral portions of the state. A good pair of hiking shoes that you can break in a bit before going out on an adventure is recommended.
Water: Hydration is essential. You should pack it with you, but I also recommend having a water filtration device. This could be something as simple as a life straw or one of the several other water filters available. Learn how to use it before you hit the trail. Wearing a bandana also allows you an opportunity to douse it with water to stay cool.
Things that bite and sting: Snakes become more of an issue in August, but we do have venomous snakes here in Pennsylvania. Rattlers are easier to identify because they rattle. Copperheads aren’t as easy to track, but some say they have a cucumber smell. To be safe around potential encounters with snakes while hiking, watch where you step and keep a charged phone handy. Do not kill these snakes as they are good for the environment.
Meanwhile, ticks and mosquitoes carry several diseases and it is a good idea to use some sort of deterrent such as DEET or whatever your preferred agent. Also, do a body scan before you go to bed.
Edible plants and mushrooms: When hiking, I love to chew on sassafras, jewel weed and birch. Tea berries and wild blueberries are a treat along with blackberries and other goodies. There are also several mushrooms that are delicious. With that in mind, do not put something in your mouth if you are not 100% sure what it is. It could lead to a fatal illness. I would encourage you to take a course on edible plants or hike with a trusted guide.
Limit the weight you carry: Novices tend to carry more weight than they should. Even 20 pounds can be quite heavy after a few climbs and descents. Only carry what you need.
Consider basic first aid course: Learning some basic first aid support can not only be helpful for yourself, but it is also a way to be able to help others. Accidents happen and having some knowledge of how to stop bleeding, splint a break or perform CPR is something I think everyone should know. Everyone includes your children as well.
“Hiking is amazing, whether you are going for a day, a weekend, section hiking or doing the whole trail,” Crim said.
WellSpan Convenient Care is a new approach to care that allows patients to receive services they need in a way that fits their busy lifestyle. Patients can schedule an appointment for continued care with a family physician or use extended hours to walk-in at their convenience.
WellSpan Convenient Care is located at 354 Alexander Spring Road, Suite 3, in Carlisle and is open Monday-Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 717-462-6873.