Written by by Jeana Frazzini, CNN
Outdoor activities are typically viewed as the best option for enjoying fall, but before you schedule an autumn getaway or a Halloween party on a field or a beach, keep in mind that you’re putting yourself at risk for exposure to certain environmental triggers that can be dangerous or even fatal.
“There is evidence that shows that activities that take place outside can lead to a lot of illnesses, such as hypothermia, dehydration, a lot of stress and injury,” says Dr. Britta Kaufmann, a professor of pediatrics and professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Kaufmann recommends that especially children and people with underlying conditions, including asthma, diabetes and some medications such as some heart medications, be cautious of “alternative outdoor activities, such as stand-up paddleboarding, scuba diving, the rock climbing.”
“You want to be cautious especially with children under 10. Some things that will make them cough and sneeze and not want to do something, but that can be another danger because it might be associated with a stomach infection,” Kaufmann adds.
According to an online survey conducted by health network VitalSmarts with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), 45% of emergency physicians and 69% of ER physicians said indoor Halloween festivities are the safest option, followed by outdoor fall gatherings. Sixty-eight percent of ER physicians said drinking is the worst part of an indoor Halloween party. Meanwhile, 59% of ER physicians and 35% of ER physicians believe alcohol makes outdoor outdoor activities the safest.
Chris Beal , the chief medical officer for VitalSmarts, suggested that homeowners take precautionary measures such as having a designated driver for children or using child-resistant bottles of alcohol.
“If it’s an indoor party, then it’s probably a good idea to put up some kind of cover (for the event) so that people aren’t exposed to the outdoors if they take a spill. But outdoor parties are a little different because when it comes to those infectious diseases you just want to be really careful,” says Beal.
According to the ACEP report, more than 70% of emergency physicians also said that cleaning the yard and trash after an outdoor party is not worth the cost and risk of exposure.
Beal also suggested that when people do go outside for an outdoor fall event, they get plenty of fresh air. “You need to stay active and be very active during this time of year. Keep things moving, keep moving all of the time,” he adds.
Meanwhile, just because there are no frost delays doesn’t mean winter is passing. “The cold is definitely a concern in the fall but I can say that it’s not really the warmer months of the year where the main hazards tend to be,” says Kaufmann.
“Certainly snow or the lack of snow can make things much worse. We had some of that snowfall in the fall, it did not last very long and of course (meteorologist) Matt Noyes was on NPR back in 2013 saying how much of a nuisance it was. However, if we’re without snow because of a shorter season and a cooler start to the year, that would be a risk,” she adds.
Kaufmann suggests going outdoors as much as possible during the colder months and whenever there is sun, to burn off that stored energy.
Another important point that informed adults can discuss with children is to not hang too many lights. The ACEP report found that adults and teens think light causes melt, but it actually causes the cold to compound the effect.
“Some of these kids from certain cities will hang lights from their cars and cars don’t have icicles yet, so they can get caught in the rain and be involved in other activity and wind up in the ER,” she adds.