4. Heat Exhaustion
Excessive heat has killed more Americans than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. It's something that most people don't think about, especially when trying to pack in a full day of activities while on vacation.
But the reality is, it's crucial to take breaks and get inside an air-conditioned space for at least two hours a day; this is especially the case for infants, children and the elderly. The good news is that it's easy to arrange such breaks when traveling because it could mean cooling off in a restaurant, mall or museum. If possible, schedule your day so that you're outside early in the morning and in the evenings, and indoors in the afternoon when the sun is its strongest.
Another tip: Dress up, not down, with lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. It's better to cover your skin than expose it to the elements. Also, overeating can exacerbate the situation, so stick with several small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones, and avoid alcohol, caffeine and high-sugar drinks.
5. Creepy Crawlers
Spiders and ticks and snakes, oh my! It's a wonder anyone leaves the house when you think of all the little critters lurking out there. But as long as you pack a little common sense when you head into the great outdoors, you'll be safe.
Stick to well-marked trails, and wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants tucked into your shoes — you're not making any fashion statements here. Keep your hands and feet away from areas where you can't see, like holes, hollow stumps and high grass. Insect repellents can save the day, but make sure it contains at least 20 percent DEET. (Some studies have theorized high concentrations of DEET can cause skin and other health problems. Still, DEET has been approved by the American Association of Pediatrics for kids above the age of two. If you’re concerned, there a number of natural repellents available at your drug or sporting goods store.)
According to the Red Cross, a basic outdoors first-aid kit should contain: antiseptic ointment, a cold pack, disposable gloves, adhesive bandages and tape, gauze, tweezers, scissors, disposable gloves, a blanket and a flashlight. Remember to pack any of your own meds, particularly if you have allergies.
The best protection is vigilance. After a walk or a hike, inspect yourself thoroughly for any evidence of ticks or bites. If you notice any swelling, bruising or red streaks, seek medical attention.
And the No. 1 most important safety rule? Never venture out alone, and always let someone at home or the park ranger know where you're headed.
Also of interest: The absolute grossest places on a plane.