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HealthFocused

Educational health information to improve your well-being.

Stay Safe & Healthy This Summer: Beat the Heat

June 20, 2017 | By Emily Campbell, student intern with Community Outreach
Published in: First Aid, General

Looking at a city skyline through the reflection in sunglasses

Temperatures are rising and days are getting longer—it's summer! While it's a great time of year for outdoors activities, the warmer weather, sunshine, and longer days do present some seasonal health concerns. Here are some tips and information to help make this summer a great one and a healthy one.

Each year, hundreds of people die because of heat-related illnesses, so it's important to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and what to do when they occur. It's also important to know what you can do to protect your health when temperatures are extremely high. It all comes down to this: Keep cool and use common sense.

The body normally cools itself by sweating. Heat-related illness occurs when the body is not able to cool itself properly, sweating isn't enough, and the body temperature rises quickly. A very high body temperature can damage the brain or other vital organs.Heat Safety infographic from the CDC

Some heat related illnesses:

Heat Stroke

A medical emergency that can lead to death or disability; it's when the body is unable to cool down and body temperature rises to 106°F or higher within 10-15 minutes.

Warning signs may include:

  • High body temperature (above 103°F taken orally)
  • Red, hot and dry skin—no sweating
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

Call 911, this is a medical emergency.

Cool the patient while waiting:

  • Get the patient to a shady area.
  • Cool the patient in any way possible—place in a cool shower, spray with cool water from a garden hose, sponge with cool water until the oral temperature drops to 101-102°F
  • Do NOT give fluids

Heat Exhaustion

A milder illness that may develop as the body's response to an excessive loss of water or salt; the elderly, those with high blood pressure and people working or exercising in a hot environment are at higher risk for heat exhaustion.

Warning signs may include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting
  • Skin may be cool and moist
  • Shallow, fast pulse with fast and shallow breathing

Help the patient cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen, last more than one hour, of if patient has heart problems or high blood pressure.

Prevention

To prevent heat-related illnesses such as Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion, or milder conditions such as a heat rash, follow these tips to keep cool and use common sense:

Drink plenty of fluids

Don't wait until you're thirsty because then it's too late! During hot weather, increase your fluid intake to two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

Replace salt and minerals

Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body, and it needs to be replaced. A sports beverage can replace them; however, is you're on a low-salt diet, talk with your physician before drinking sports beverages or taking salt tablets.

Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen

Choose lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, but protect your skin from sunburn. Sunburn will impact your body's ability to cool itself and causes you to lose body fluids. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are a must—as in sunscreen! It should be at least SPF 15 and say 'broad spectrum' or 'UVA/UVB protection' on the bottle. Reapply as directed.

Schedule your time outdoors

Try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening, avoiding the hottest time of the day between about 11 am and 4 pm. Pace yourself. If you feel your heart pounding or you're gasping for breath, STOP! Get into someplace cool and rest.

Stay cool indoors

If possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If you don't have air-conditioning at home, go to a mall or library—a few hours in the air-conditioning can help keep your body cooler when you go back outside. Use the stove or oven less to help keep your home as cool as possible.

Be a good friend and neighbor—keep an eye on those at risk

If you're working outside, keep an eye on your co-workers and have them do the same for you. Check up at least twice a day on those you know who may be at risk—infants and children, people older than 65 years of age, those who have chronic diseases like high blood pressure and those who are on medication.

Never leave children in cars

It doesn't even have to be hot, and cracking the windows does not help. Children left inside parked cars are at risk for heat stroke and death

If you would like more information on heat safety, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html.