AUSTIN— As we enter the summer months, Texans are heading to Texas State Parks to enjoy time outdoors. Last year, 43 state parks reported 102 heat-related illnesses in humans and pets. Since January 1, 54 heat-related incidents have already been reported, compared to 34 reported by this time last year.
With temperatures soaring into the triple digits, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is sharing their suggestions for staying safe in the outdoors.
Here are the top six heat hacks recommended for park visitors:
Hydrate- It’s important to drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour in the heat to replenish your body and prevent dehydration. Don’t forget to bring enough for your four-legged family members too.
Block the Rays- Apply a generous amount of sunscreen or sunblock before heading outdoors. Be sure to reapply every couple of hours, and after swimming or sweating.
Dress Smart- Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing; a hat, correct shoes, sunscreen and wet bandanas to keep you cool while in the sun. For pets, protect paws against blistering by hitting the trails during cooler times of the day when the ground isn’t hot or by putting booties on pets to help shield paws from the hot ground. Touch the pavement or ground with the back of your hand. If you cannot hold it there for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.
Stay Salty- Food helps keep up energy and replace salt lost from sweating. Eating snacks such as jerky, granola, trail mix, tuna and dried fruit is a fantastic way to nourish your body while on the trails.
Buddy System- Two brains are better than one. It’s beneficial to have someone with you in hot conditions so you can look after each other on the trail. With high temperatures hitting Texas, heat-related illnesses are common and having a friend around to help recognize the early symptoms can save you from getting sick.
Plan Ahead- Study the map and have it with you, avoid relying on your phone for maps since service may be unavailable in back-country areas. Average hikers move at 2 miles per hour, so allow yourself plenty of time to avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Make sure to rest in a cool or shaded area to recover from the heat if necessary. It is also a good idea to let someone know your plan before you hit the trails and what time you should be back. That way, if you become lost, people know where to look.
Dogs are as susceptible to heat as their humans are, so it is good practice to ensure that you bring enough water and snacks for four-legged hiking buddies to last the entirety of the trip. Also, be mindful of ground temperatures before hitting the trails. Since dogs aren’t wearing shoes, they can be prone to injury.
Additionally, visitors should heed notices posted at trailheads about site specific conditions before setting out for the day. Park staff are also a valuable resource for folks wanting to know about trail and forecasted conditions before starting their walk.
For more information about heat safety, visit the TPWD website.
Texas State Park reservations can be made online anytime or by calling the Texas State Park Reservation Center at 512-389-8900 on weekdays during normal business hours or anytime online on the TPWD website. Overnight reservations can be made up to five months in advance, and day passes can be reserved up to 30 days in advance. If your plans change, please modify or cancel your reservation as soon as possible to allow someone else to enjoy the park as we do expect the park to reach capacity limits.
Find a park in your area at http://texasstateparks.org/.