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Tips to Make Your Summer Activities Healthier and Safer

Warm weather is here, which means longer days and more opportunities to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer. With a little planning you can make your outdoor experiences safer and memorable this summer season. Read on for simple tips for protecting your health outdoors during the warmer months.

People may worry about spending extended time outdoors in natural environments when they hear reports about ticks carrying Lyme disease or mosquitoes spreading West Nile Virus. 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.

To prevent tick or mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • When outdoors in grassy or wooded areas, wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and shoes with closed toes, and tuck your pant cuffs into your socks. Light coloured clothing makes ticks easier to see.
  • Use an insect repellent. Prior to using an insect repellent, make sure it is registered in Canada, read the label and follow directions. The label will specify what pests the product will protect you from.
  • Check your entire body, as well as other family members (e.g., children, partner) and pets for ticks after being outdoors. Remind friends who were with you to do the same. For those hard to see places, use a mirror, or ask someone to check for you. If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible. After removing the tick, use eTick.ca for tick identification and follow the guidance provided (e.g., if it is a blacklegged tick, contact your health care provider to help assess your risk of Lyme disease).
  • Keep ticks and mosquitoes away from your home and garden by getting rid of standing water and keeping grass, brush and weeds short. Move woodpiles and bird feeders away from the house.

Visit SMDHU’s pages for more information about West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.

Warmer weather also means more exposure to heat and harmful rays from the sun. To avoid heat-related illness such as heat stroke, stay hydrated and look for 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.

Practice sun safety by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and loose long-sleeved shirts and pants, and by using a broad spectrum and water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more (and don’t forget to reapply a generous amount at least every 2 hours). Remember to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses with UV-protective lenses that protect against both UVA and UVB. Taking these precautions is particularly important during peak sunlight hours (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Visit SMDHU’s pages to learn more about sun safety

Picnics are outdoor staples of warm weather recreation, but precautions should be taken to avoid foodborne illnesses. Older adults, young children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune system are at a greater risk of serious cases of food poisoning.

The following food safety tips will help to ensure you, your family and your friends can enjoy picnics in the great outdoors: 

  • Always wash hands before preparing food and use thoroughly cleaned and sanitized counters, plates and utensils.
  • Have enough coolers with ice or frozen gel packs to store perishable foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and salads. You want to keep the food at 4oC. Pack foods right from the refrigerator into the coolers.
  • Pack raw meats, poultry, or seafood on the bottom of the cooler. This will reduce the risk of them dripping on other foods. Pack coolers until they are full.
  • Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one containing the food will not constantly be opened and closed.
  • If possible, do not put the cooler in the car trunk. Keep it inside an air-conditioned car. At picnics, keep the cooler in the shade and keep the lid closed. Replenish the ice if it melts.
  • Find out if there is a source of safe drinking water at your destination. If not, bring water for preparation and rinsing hands. Hand sanitizer is great to bring along, but you must ensure your hands are visibly clean prior to use.

Visit SMDHU’s pages to learn more about food safety.


Spending time at the beach is a popular summer pastime and can be great for your mental and physical well-being. However, there is the possibility of injury or illness resulting from recreational water use if there is polluted or unsafe conditions. Human illness and infection can be caused by organisms (bacteria, viruses and parasites) that may be in natural bodies of water.

The health unit monitors water safety at several designated public beaches in Simcoe County and Muskoka Region. Water samples are taken at these beaches and are tested for levels of E. coli bacteria. When elevated levels of E. coli are present in the samples, the beach may be posted with an advisory indicating it is unsafe for swimming. Or the beach may be closed until water samples come back clean. Beaches are also monitored for other potential hazards, including harmful algae blooms such as blue-green algae. 

Environmental conditions, animals and waterfowl can also impact water quality at beaches. Rain is the biggest factor that impacts beach water quality. Rain washes contaminants into the water. While small amounts of rainfall are unlikely to have much impact, we advise you to avoid swimming for 24-48 hours if it has rained heavily.

If you are planning to visit a public beach, check the Beach Advisory section of our website before you go to make sure it's safe for swimming.

Visit SMDHU’s pages to learn more about Beach Water Quality.


Swimming and water activities are a fun way to cool off in the hot summer months and can be a part of a healthy and active lifestyle. However, as with any activity risks do exist around the water. Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related death for Canadians, and it often happens quickly and silently. It’s always best to be cautious and attentive when you or those you are with are in or near the water, especially if there are people who don’t know how to swim.

Top tips to be safe around water:

  • Actively supervise your children.
  • Life jackets save lives. Wear one if you don’t know how to swim or have some fear of the water. See here for differences between Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) and life jackets.
  • If you have a pool, fence it to prevent any harms to wandering toddlers and children.
  • Enroll your child in swimming lessons.
  • Be prepared. Llearn to swim and know how to do CPR and first aid.

Visit parachute.ca for additional tips and strategies you can use to keep you and your family safe this summer.


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