Ready for some fun in the sun? Be mindful that warm-weather activity without the proper protection can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke. When the temperature soars, follow these tips to keep your loved ones safe from heat-related illness.
In extreme heat, it’s important to drink more fluids than usual, regardless of activity level. If you exercise, try to drink two to four glasses of cool fluids per hour. Avoid ice-cold beverages, which may cause stomach cramps, as well as alcoholic, caffeinated, or highly sweetened beverages, which may cause dehydration. Sports drinks can help replace the salt and minerals lost in sweat.
Eat small meals and eat more often. Light meals that contain less protein are easier for the body to process, which prevents your body from increasing its internal temperature to aid digestion.
Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours, the coolest times of the day. Even then, spend as much time in the shade as possible and take regular breaks. Spend the hottest part of the day in a cool environment, such as an air-conditioned public library. If you work outside, pace yourself and rest often. Want to exercise outside? Do a low-intensity workout, preferably before 7 a.m.
Use the buddy system. Elderly or overweight adults, young children, those with chronic diseases, and outdoor workers are at the highest risk for heat-related ailments. Visit at-risk adults at least twice a day to ensure that they don’t experience heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Supervise children closely. Kids are especially susceptible to the heat because they require a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating, and they perspire less than adults. If you work outdoors, make sure you and your coworkers monitor each other.
Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms that usually occur in the arms, legs, or abdomen. People who engage in strenuous activity during extreme heat are prone to heat cramps. If you experience them, cease all activity and drink a cool beverage. Gently stretch the cramped muscle, holding the stretch for about 20 seconds, and then massage the muscle. You may resume activity after the cramps subside if you have no other signs of heat-related illness.
Heat exhaustion often develops after several days of exposure to high temperature and inadequate hydration. Heavy sweating, paleness, fatigue, dizziness, and headache are common signs of heat exhaustion. If you’re with someone experiencing this problem, get the victim to a cool area and provide a half-glass of cool water every 15 minutes. A cool shower or sponge bath may also relieve these symptoms.
During heatstroke, a life-threatening illness, the body loses its ability to sweat and regulate its temperature. Symptoms may include an extremely high body temperature (up to 105 degrees), hot and dry skin, headache, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness. If someone in your care exhibits signs of heatstroke, call 9-1-1. Begin cooling the victim by having him lie down with his feet elevated. Gently apply cool water to the skin and ice packs to the neck, groin, or armpits.
Heat-related illnesses can happen to anyone, but they are preventable. Use common sense and practice healthy habits to enjoy a fun—and safe—summer season.
Sunburn causes a loss of fluids and limits the body’s ability to cool itself. About 30 minutes before going outside, apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Reapply according to package directions.