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Prepare for the Unexpected Before Hiking

The American Hiking Society outlines 10 things needed on every hike, starting with appropriate footwear.

Trail shoes are fine for a short day hike that doesn’t involve carrying a heavy pack or negotiating difficult terrain. But hiking boots, which offer more support, are a better choice for longer hikes, carrying heavier loads, or traveling on more challenging terrain.

Even if you have a GPS unit, you need a map and compass as a backup. It’s also important to carry enough water and have a way to purify water from sources along the trail.

Take extra food in case you’re out longer than you planned because you get lost, suffer an injury, or traverse more difficult terrain than you expected.

Even if the weather forecast is good, bring rain gear and extra clothing in case the prediction is wrong. Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Do not wear cotton clothes – which trap moisture close to the skin – and always carry a hat. Sunscreen and sunglasses are also required.

Even on a day hike, you need a whistle, flashlight/headlamp and matches or lighter in case of an emergency. Three short bursts on a whistle is a signal for help.

Always carry a first-aid kit. Better yet, take a first-aid class. Another important item is a knife or multi-purpose tool, for cutting strips of cloth into bandages, removing splinters and fixing broken eyeglasses.

Your daypack or backpack should be comfortable and have a rain cover to keep your belongings dry.

Do You Need a Doctor for Bug Bites and Bee Stings?

Summer is finally here. Although summertime usually means beautiful weather, barbecues, and long sunny days, summer also brings an assortment of bugs and bees that can lead to bites and stings.

Fortunately, most of those inevitable bites and stings aren’t serious. However, experts from the American Academy of Dermatology advise going to the emergency room right away if you notice any of the following symptoms soon after a bug bite or sting:

• Difficulty breathing

• The feeling that your throat is closing

• Swelling of lips, tongue or face

• Chest pain

• A racing heartbeat for more than a
few minutes

• Dizziness or headache

• Vomiting

Also beware of a red rash that looks like a donut or bulls-eye target after a tick bite, or a fever with a spreading red or black spotty rash. These can be signs of serious
tick-related illness.

“Although most bug bites and stings do not turn into a severe or even fatal illness like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms,” Dr. Margaret Parsons, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, said in an academy news release.

Parsons added that if you feel tired all the time, have a headache, fever or body aches, or develop a rash after a bug bite, see your doctor.

However, home care is fine for most bites and stings, according to Parsons.

In general, bites and stings “can be safely treated at home with topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream or ointment, or an oral antihistamine to reduce the itch,” said Parsons.

Animals May Ease
Social Anxiety
in Children with Autism

Being around animals may help reduce social anxiety in children with autism, new research suggests.

The findings could lead to new treatment approaches that use pets such as dogs, cats and guinea pigs to help children with autism improve their social skills and interactions with other people, the researchers said.

The children participating in the study first read a book by themselves. Then, they read a book to two other children and then had
10 minutes of group play. After that, the children were given 10 minutes of supervised play with guinea pigs. Researchers chose guinea pigs because of their small size and gentle nature.

Compared to other children, those with autism had higher levels of anxiety when reading silently, reading aloud and during group play. However, the youngsters with autism had a significant drop in anxiety levels during the session with the guinea pig.

One explanation for this effect is that pets offer unqualified acceptance and make children with autism feel more secure, according to Marguerite O’Haire, from the Center for the Human-Animal Bond in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

“Previous studies suggest that in the presence of companion animals, children with autism spectrum disorders function better socially,” said James Griffin of theChild Development and Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, in an agency news release. “This study provides physiological evidence that the proximity of animals eases the stress that children with autism may experience in social situations.”

However, the findings do not mean that parents of children with autism should get a pet for their children, O’Haire said, until further research is completed.