It’s summertime, and that means fun with friends and family enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. But with fun weekends at the pool and holidays at the lake comes increased risk for heat-related illness. Here are a few tips to enjoy the summertime sunshine safely by avoiding heat related illness.
First, you’ll want to know what the symptoms of heat-related illness, or heat exhaustion. This way, you can quickly and easily identify when you or your kids are most at risk. Here are just a few:
- Dizziness and fainting
There are many other physical symptoms, with the onset of heat exhaustion frequently signaled by heavy sweating, a rapid pulse, and general overheating of the body. This can be caused by exposure to high temperatures, especially in combination with humidity. Exerting yourself through physical activity can also greatly increase your risk in heat. If heat exhaustion is not quickly treated, it can turn to heatstroke, a potentially fatal condition.
Fortunately, using these tips can prevent you from overheating:
- Dress in cool, loose clothing. Tight-fitting clothing increase your body’s heat by trapping more of your personal heat around your skin. To avoid additional heat increase in hot weather, stick to clothes that breathe, and look for natural fibers for added comfort and breathability.
- Limit your alcohol intake. While you can still enjoy a beer or glass of wine at the family barbecue, be sure to monitor how much you are drinking. While you may be used to drinking a few alcoholic beverages, the sun exacerbates alcohol’s dehydrating effects, putting you at an increased risk for heat exhaustion.
- Wear sunscreen. In addition to preventing skin damage from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, wearing sunscreen prevents sunburns, which impacts how your body cools itself. Be sure to reapply sunscreen frequently, particularly if you are sweating.
- Never leave anyone in a parked car. This is an easy prevention measure that unfortunately still causes many deaths every summer. You should never leave anyone, including young children or your pets, inside a car. A car in the sun can easily and quickly rise 20 degrees in temperature (Fahrenheit), meaning even a quick stop at the bank can put your loved ones in peril.
- Be extra careful if you are on certain medications. If you are taking medications regularly, it’s important to know their impact on your body’s ability to self-regulate. Certain prescriptions can hinder this bodily function, so be extra cautious about your activity in the sun. Be sure to ask your physician if you have any questions.
In addition to medications, here are a few other risk factors that increase your likeliness to suffer from a heat-related illness
- Old age or young age
- Rapid temperature changes in the environment
Even with these precautions, you can still experience heat-related illnesses.
What can you do when you think heat exhaustion is coming on?
- Cease all physical activity and rest. This may seem obvious, but oftentimes, people do not realize they are overexerting themselves in the sun. Even after taking a water break or resting for a few minutes, many people may want to resume activity. It is very important that your body cools down to a healthy temperature before engaging in more physical activity.
- Hydrate with water or sports liquids. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day during any time in the summer (and even year-round). Once your body has overheated, it’s even more important to replace fluids. Sports drinks provide electrolytes that can help re-stabilize your body after heavy sweating, so be sure to keep those on hand if you know you’re going to be exerting yourself through sustained physical activity.
- Move to a cool, indoor place. While resting and hydrating are essential for cooling down, changing your overall environment is a good idea as you get your body adjusted back to a normal temperature.
If you are unable to cool down, you may need to see a doctor. Call your doctor immediately if symptoms do not improve within one hour. If you are with a person showing these signs, you should seek immediate medical care if he or she is showing worsening symptoms like confusion, losing consciousness, or inability to hydrate. Check out this post for more tips on staying healthy this summer!