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Making the most of spring and summer activities

Jun 13, 2023
The return of warm weather allows us opportunities for outdoor activity with friends and family.

The return of warm weather allows us opportunities for outdoor activity with friends and family. In addition to the health benefits of physical activity, research shows that greater exposure to natural environments such as parks, gardens, woodlands and beaches is associated with better health and well-being. Activities outdoors can be very beneficial to our health and wellbeing, provided we take certain precautions.

Fight the bite

Spending time outdoors often means we enter tick and mosquito habitats. The risks of Lyme disease, transmitted by blacklegged ticks, and West Nile virus, carried by certain mosquitoes, are increasing throughout Simcoe Muskoka because of the warmer temperatures brought on by climate change. You can reduce your chances of being exposed to tick or mosquito-borne illnesses by following these precautions:

  • Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants, closed-toe footwear, and tuck your pant cuffs into your socks.
  • Use an insect repellent that is registered in Canada, containing DEET or icaridin.
  • Do a full body tick check on yourself and your family (including pets) after being outdoors as soon as you can.
  • If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible.

If you find a tick, visit, a free, digital image-based identification service. If the tick is identified as a blacklegged tick, contact your health care provider or pharmacist to discuss treatment. If you develop symptoms associated with Lyme disease or West Nile virus (i.e., fever, body pains, fatigue with or without a rash), contact your health care provider.

Be safe in the sun

Spending more time outdoors also means more exposure to heat and harmful rays from the sun. You can protect yourself from heat-related illness such as heat stroke by staying hydrated and staying in cool, shaded areas when the sun is out. In extreme heat, some medications may increase your health risk and/or make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about your medication.

Practising sun safety by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, light-coloured loose-fitting clothes covering as much of the body as possible, and using a broad-spectrum, “water-resistant” sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more helps to prevent a painful sunburn. It also provides protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause skin damage, leads to premature aging and increases the risk of skin cancer. It is also important to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses with UV-protective lenses. Taking these precautions is particularly important during peak sunlight hours (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), even on cloudy days. 

Be air quality aware

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a tool that measures pollution levels and is used to determine the level of risk it can pose to our health. When the AQHI is high, Environment Canada issues an Air Quality Alert along with the information about the potential risks to health.  You can protect your health when the air quality is poor by modifying or limiting outdoor activities. This is particularly important if you have an existing heart or lung condition, for young children, older adults and anyone who works outdoors doing physically strenuous jobs.

I wish everyone a safe and healthy spring and summertime.  As with any activity, taking the appropriate precautions will help ensure time spent outdoors is a healthy and rewarding experience.

Dr. Charles Gardner is the Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. To learn more about warm weather safety and other public health topics, visit


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