With the winter weather behind us and spring finally in the air, there’s no better reason to get outside and get active in the Kingston community. Whether you walk, run, cycle, or wheel, make the most of the outdoors by planning ahead to avoid nasty springtime allergens and those pesky waterfront midges. Don’t forget to break out the sunscreen and UV-protection sunglasses for added protection on those sunny soon-to-be summer days.
Plants – including trees, grass, and weeds – begin to release pollen in the spring. For many of us, pollen triggers an allergic response (“Hay Fever”) that can include a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, sneezing and coughing. If you feel like you’re getting a springtime cold, you may actually have a pollen allergy…but don’t fret! Here are a few tips to help keep a spring in your step:
- Pollen counts tend to be higher on windy days, so when there’s a breeze you may want to plan indoor activities or seek sheltered outdoor areas.
- Rain washes the pollen away, so breathe easy and do some puddle jumping on those rainy spring days.
- Keep some extra Kleenex in your pocket for when you need it. Over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants may also do the trick – but it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor first.
Black swarms of nonbiting midges are common along the Kingston waterfront. As the temperature approaches double digits, these small flying insects begin to hatch and swarm near bodies of water to mate. We often see ebbs and flows in the number of nonbiting midges throughout the summer months as these harmless (but often annoying) insects undergo several lifecycles. They are attracted to light and most often found near water, although wind can blow the swarms further inland. To avoid bugs in your hair and a little extra protein in your diet, here are a few suggestions for your next outdoor adventure:
- Avoid the water: Choose inland trails over waterfront pathways.
- Avoid the sun: Get in any outdoor exercise before dawn or after dusk.
- If you’re near the water in daylight, keep an eye out for the conspicuous black swarms. When possible, stick to darker surfaces such as pavement or grass to avoid swarms over light surfaces, including concrete sidewalks or gravel paths.
With the warm weather upon us, we are often tempted to get outdoors and soak up the sun. It’s important to remember that even before those hot summer days, or when there are clouds in the sky, UV radiation from the sun can damage our skin, lips, and eyes, and lead to long-term consequences for our health (e.g., skin cancer). Before you head outside, check the UV Index to assess your level of risk and use the following strategies to help protect yourself:
- Stick to the shade (e.g., forest trails) or bring an umbrella.
- Plan outdoor activities for early or late in the day (i.e., before 10am or after 4pm).
- Apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before heading outside and reapply every 2 hours.
- If you plan to be active in the water or on land, make sure your sunscreen is water-proof and/or sweat-proof.
- Wear sunglasses with UV eye protection.
- Wear a hat with a beak or brim.
- Even though it may be hot, cover up your skin.
- You can purchase active wear with built-in UV protection or wash your outdoor clothes in SunGuard (a colourless dye that gives your clothing an SPF of 30).
By Veronica Allan