Heat illnesses are conditions that arise when your body overheats. Symptoms range from mild, like muscle cramps, heavy sweating, and rapid pulse, to severe, such as nausea and fatigue. Heatstroke is the most serious form of heat injury and can cause damage to the brain or vital organs, and even death.
You can never be too careful when going outdoors at temperatures over 90 degrees. Fortunately, heat- related illnesses are preventable. Here’s how.
- Stay in a cool area. If your home has air conditioning, then the heat problem can easily be solved. If not, go to a public place, such as a shopping mall. Spending a few hours in air conditioning can help your body stay cool when you get back home. Alternatively, go to a heat-relief shelter in your area.
- Avoid strenuous physical activity. Don’t overexert yourself in hot weather, especially at noon. Postpone your exercise or physical labor for early morning or evening, when it’s cooler outside. When you do go outside, take frequent breaks in the shade and drink plenty of fluids. Stop all activities if you feel lightheaded or your heart starts to pound.
- Adapt to the heat. Let your body get acclimated to the heat weeks before doing any serious physical activities. If you’re not used to hot weather, you may be susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Your body needs to cool properly in the heat and your choice of clothing matters a lot. Avoid tight clothing or wearing clothing in excess. Choose loose-fitting, light-colored and lightweight clothing.
- Prevent sunburns. Sunburns diminish your body’s ability to cool itself. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and put on sunscreen when going outdoors. Apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 that says “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on its label. Reapply the sunscreen every two hours or more often if you get wet.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids helps you sweat, keeping your body temperature normal. A good rule of thumb is to drink more fluids in the heat even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid fluids that dehydrate your body, such as very sugary or alcoholic drinks.
- Don’t leave anyone in a parked car. Leaving your child or pet in the car when it’s hot outside may put their life in danger. The sun can increase the temperature in your car by 20 degrees Fahrenheit in 10 minutes! Don’t leave anyone or pets in the car even if the windows are cracked or the car is in shade.
- Know if you are at increased risk. Be extra cautious if you take medications or have conditions that increase your risk of heat-related conditions. Certain medications can affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat. Moreover, if you’ve had a heat illness before, avoid the heat as much as possible.
- Be on the lookout for weather updates. Check local news and weather apps for extreme heat alerts and safety tips. If you’re experiencing heat exhaustion, stop and rest, move to a cooler place, and drink water or sports drinks. Contact a doctor for severe heat related symptoms.
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