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Educational health information to improve your well-being.

Protecting Against Heat Related Illnesses

June 10, 2020
Published in: Primary Care, Summer

Woman and child in the sun

The full force of summer is quickly approaching, which means temperatures will be heating up significantly. While it’s great to enjoy the benefits of longer days and being outdoors, the heat that summer brings can also be harmful, even deadly. Heat related illnesses claim over 600 lives on average each year. The good news is that heat related illnesses and deaths are preventable if you follow proper safety guidelines.Remember, infants, young children, people over the age of 65, and people with physical illnesses like heart disease are at increased risk of suffering from heat related illnesses.

Before you head outdoors or start soaking up the sun, make sure you take the following precautions to stay safe from the summer heat!

Hydration is Imperative

Your body is made up of about 60% water. Water serves an important purpose in nearly every function of the body. Simply put, humans need water to survive. The need for water is magnified by summer heat. However, many people don’t have adequate water intake. To maximize hydration, drink at least eight, eight ounce glasses of water each day. Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, and sugary beverages as much as possible as these can cause dehydration. Most importantly, don’t wait until you’re already thirsty to drink water. Instead, drink water consistently throughout the day.

Choose Your Clothes Carefully

To help beat the heat, choose lightweight, light-colored, and loose fitting clothing. Dark colored clothing absorbs heat. A wide brimmed hat and sunglasses with 100% UV protection are also good choices to keep you cool and protected. Remember, always wear a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and reapply often when you’re out in the sun.

Soak Up the Shade

If you’re outside in the sun for more than 15 minutes, be sure to find a shady spot to take a break. If you’re headed to the beach, a campground, the lake, or an outdoor festival, remember to pack your shade! Items like umbrellas and pop-up cabanas are a great way to create shade wherever you go.

Know When to Go Inside

Summer temperatures can climb into the high nineties and even break one-hundred degrees. During extreme heat, it can be unsafe to be outside at all. During these times, not even electric fans are effective at keeping people cool enough. If you find yourself in a heat wave without air conditioning, call your local health department to inquire about heat relief stations. Public buildings like libraries and shopping malls are also a good option for accessing air conditioning.

Clear Out the Car

Since 2017, over fifty children have died each year from being left in a car during hot weather. Never leave children, people without the ability to exit the vehicle, or pets in a car during hot weather. Research shows that fatalities from being left in a hot car can occur in as little time as one-hour. However, severe heat related illnesses can occur from being left in a car for as little as ten minutes. It is never okay to leave a vulnerable person or pet in a vehicle during hot weather.

Time of Day Matters

It’s always a good idea to limit your time outdoors in the summer to the coolest times of day. This means mornings and evenings are the safest times to be outside in the summer. You’ll also want to reduce outdoor exercise during hot summer days. If you do exercise outdoors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends drinking two to four glasses of cool non-alcoholic beverages every hour.

Summer is synonymous with vacations, fun, and outdoor activities. Make sure you and your loved ones stay safe, while enjoying the great outdoors this summer. Be mindful of the heat and implement strategies to keep you cool, rested, and hydrated.