Summer Safety, Beat the Heat!

Finally—summer is upon us! It's that wonderful time of year when the temperature rises and we get to spend more time enjoying outdoor activities. With that rise in temperature comes a need for increased awareness and safety! This is especially true when temperatures are in the 90's or higher. Here are a few tips for staying cool this summer:

  • Drink more fluids- regardless of your activity level. Do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink. You should limit liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine constrict blood vessels near the skin reducing the amount of heat the body can release. Please note- if you typically restrict your fluids due to heart, kidney, or liver disease, consult with your doctor before making any changes to your fluid intake.
  • Try to stay in relatively cool areas, even when outside. If your home does not have air-conditioning, stay on the lowest floor (out of the sunshine) and keep windows covered with drapes or shades. Better yet, you can go to an air-conditioned place like a shopping mall, a movie theater or a public library. Just 2 hours a day in an air-conditioned space can significantly reduce the risk of heat-related illness.
  • Dress for the heat. Wear loose-fitting clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Lightweight, light-colored clothing that reflects heat and sunlight and helps to maintain normal body temperature. In addition, protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Eat for the heat. Consume frequent, small, well-balanced meals. Include foods that are naturally high in their water content like watermelon, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, strawberries, zucchini and tomatoes. Avoid salt tablets unless you are directed by a physician to consume these.
  • Living in the heat. Pay attention to the heat and modify your activities as needed. You may need to reduce, eliminate, or reschedule strenuous activities such as running, biking and lawn care. The best times for such activities are during early morning and late evening hours.
  • Avoid hot, enclosed places, such as cars. Never leave children or pets in a closed vehicle. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach 140-190⁰F within just 30 minutes on a hot day.
  • Check regularly on:
    • Infants and young children
    • People aged 65 or older
    • People who have a mental illness
    • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Learn the symptoms of heat disorders.
    • Heavy sweating – though if heat stroke sets in, the body can no longer compensate and stops sweating.
    • Pale skin
    • Muscle cramps
    • Feeling tired and weak
    • Confusion or disorientation
    • Headache
    • Decreased consciousness or passing out
    • Nausea or vomiting
  • First aid tips for heat-induced illnesses:
    • Call 911.
    • Get the person out of the sun and to a cooler area- such as a shaded spot or better yet, into an air-conditioned building.
    • Apply water to help the person cool off.
    • Remove any heavy clothing.
    • If the person can drink, give him/her sips of water.
    • Try immersing the person in cool water- either at a swimming pool or in a bathtub.

Sources:

  • The National Weather Service Forecast Office
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • The National Center for Environmental Health -- Health Studies Branch.

Compiled by Kara Meeks MS, RD, CDE
Community Outreach, Augusta Health