AUSTIN—As we enter the summer months, Texans are heading to Texas state parks to enjoy the weather outdoors. Last year, 43 state parks reported 102 heat-related illnesses in humans and pets. Since January 1, 54 heat-related incidents have been reported, compared to 34 reported at this time last year.
With temperatures hitting triple digits, the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife shares its suggestions for staying safe outdoors.
Here are the top six recommended heat hacks for park visitors:
Hydrate- It is important to drink at least 16 ounces of water per hour in the heat to replenish your body and prevent dehydration. Don’t forget to bring enough for your four-legged family members.
Block the Rays – Apply a generous amount of sunscreen or sunscreen before going outdoors. Be sure to reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
Dress smart – Wear light, loose and breathable clothing; a hat, decent shoes, sunscreen and wet bandanas to keep you cool when out in the sun. For pets, protect paws from blisters by walking the trails during the cooler hours of the day when the ground is not hot or by putting booties on pets to help protect paws from hot ground . Touch the pavement or the ground with the back of your hand. If you can’t hold it for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.
Stay salty – Foods help conserve energy and replace salt lost through sweat. Eating snacks such as jerky, granola, trail mix, tuna, and dried fruit is a fantastic way to fuel your body on the trails.
Buddy System – Two brains are better than one. It pays to have someone with you in warm conditions so you can take care of each other on the trail. With the high temperatures hitting Texas, heat-related illnesses are common, and having a friend to help you recognize 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 as service may not be available in backcountry areas. Average hikers travel at 2 miles per hour, so allow plenty of time to avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Be sure to rest in a cool or shady place to recover heat if needed. It’s also a good idea to let someone know your plan before you hit the trails and when you should be back. That way, if you get lost, people will know where to look.
Dogs are as sensitive to heat as their humans, so it’s recommended to make sure you bring enough water and snacks to keep the four-legged hiking companions going for the duration of the trip. Also consider the ground temperature before hitting the trails. Since dogs don’t wear shoes, they can be prone to injury.
Additionally, visitors should heed notices posted at the trailheads about site-specific conditions before heading out for the day. Park staff are also a great resource for people who want to know about trails and expected conditions before starting their walk.
For more information on thermal safety, visit the TPWD website.
Reservations for Texas State Park can be made online anytime or by calling the Texas State Park Reservation Center at 512-389-8900 weekdays during regular business hours or anytime online at the TPWD website. Overnight reservations can be made up to five months in advance and day passes can be booked up to 30 days in advance. If your plans change, please amend or cancel your reservation as soon as possible to allow someone else to enjoy the park as we expect the park to reach capacity limits.
Find a park near you on http://texasstateparks.org/.
For infographics of the six thermal hacks, visit the TPWD Flickr page.