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Staying Safe in the Summer Heat

By Kristy Warren

 

Come August, we're eager to soak up every last bit of warm summer weather, but it’s important to keep an eye on time spent in the summer heat. When temperatures rise, so does our risk for heat cramps, exhaustion, and heat stroke. 

 

The bad news: Minor heat illnesses can quickly progress to more serious conditions when left untreated, so if you suspect someone is suffering from the heat, it’s important to act fast.

 

The good news: Heat illnesses are preventable. Arm yourself with these preventive tips before heading out to the beach or summer barbeque.

 

Laurel Health Center physician Lindsay Michael, DO shares some tips to keep you and your family safe while enjoying the sizzle of summer.

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated; alcohol and soda dehydrate the body further

  • Plan outdoors activities for early or late in the day when the sun is less intense. Avoid outdoor activities from 10 am – 3 pm when possible.

  • Take breaks. Seek out shade, a cool shower, or step indoors for a blast of AC. If you don’t have air-conditioning at home, visit a public place that does like a library or store.

  • Don’t lose track of time. If you regularly work outdoors in landscaping or construction, or find yourself getting distracted by a project or activity, set a timer to remember to take a break.
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  • Never leave people or pets in parked vehicles during warm weather no matter how quickly you plan to dash into a store or run an errand. Even with the windows cracked, car temperatures escalate to dangerous levels in minutes.

  • Know your risks. Certain medications like antihistamines, anti-depressants, diuretics, and blood pressure drugs can make it more difficult to regulate your body temperature.

  • Some health conditions are affected negatively by heat. Chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and sleep deprivation put you at greater risk for trouble with heat; take more frequent breaks, avoid high temperatures, and stay hydrated.

  • If it hits the 90s, stay inside. Indoor activities are a better bet when the heat hits 90+ degrees.

  • Learn to recognize the signs of heat illness and take quick action to keep it from progressing.

 

Recognizing Common Types of Heat Illness:

Heat cramps—Heat cramps are an early warning sign that your body is stressed. If you experience any muscle cramping while enjoying a hot day, stop whatever you’re doing, go inside or seek shade, and drink water to rehydrate and cool down.

Heat exhaustion—While many people have heard of heat stroke, they aren’t always as familiar with the precursor: heat exhaustion. Early warning signs of heat exhaustion include headaches, nausea, vomiting, intense sweating, pale skin, and increasing irritability, sleepiness, or loss of concentration / coordination. Drink water and take a cool shower or bath to cool off quickly. If a person exhibits these symptoms then passes out, call 9-1-1.

Heat strokeHeat stroke is a medical emergency that can result in death or permanent disability without proper treatment. Symptoms include a rapid pulse, red dry skin, high body temperature, headaches, dizziness, and loss of consciousness. In this condition, the body can no longer cool off on its own and can reach fatal temperatures. Call 9-1-1 immediately and move the affected person out of the heat. Remove their clothing, place ice along the groin, armpits, wrists, and neck, cover the person with a wet sheet, and blow a fan over them until help arrives.

When it comes to beating the heat, it’s better to play it safe. Take care to stay hydrated, plan activities to avoid high heat, remember to rest, act quickly if you suspect heat illness, and know how to cool down to safely enjoy the summer.

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