WPS Health Insurance Blog

Be safe in the summer heat

Posted by Bonnie Walke

Jul 30, 2015 8:30:00 AM

thermometer-2Summer heat has arrived, but too much fun in the sun can be a problem! How much heat is too much? Here’s what you need to know ...

When you are out in the sun, you should take precautions to limit your total heat exposure. Find some shade to take a break from the sun. If you can’t find shade, then make your own. Wear a hat with a brim or hold an umbrella.

Drink plenty of fluids. Sweat is your friend; your body can use your skin to transfer heat to the surface and away from your vital organs and brain. Not all fluids are created equal. Sports drinks have their place, but plain water is still best. Cracking open a cold beer on a hot day can feel refreshing, but the alcohol is not hydrating. If you plan to drink alcohol on a very hot day, make every other drink water and stay cool and hydrated. Overall, water should be your beverage of choice.

Kids and pets

Small children do not transfer heat very well and may not identify that they are thirsty. Keep them hydrated and have them take a break in the shade. (Re-apply sunscreen during these breaks as well.)

Many pets cannot sweat, so heat can be deadly. Don’t leave pets in a vehicle, thinking that it will be a shady spot. The temperatures inside a car or truck can quickly reach 10-20 degrees higher than outdoors. If you won’t be able to keep your pet safe and cool with you, leave them at home. Pets also need protection from dehydration - keep them well watered.

What is the heat index? Does it really matter?

If the thermometer reads 85 degrees F but the weather service tells you that the heat index is 93 degrees F, you now know how hot it feels outside in the shade. If you are going to be in direct sun exposure, you will feel hotter yet.

Simply put, heat index is a measure of the air temperature in relation to the relative humidity for the day. When the heat index is high, babies, older adults, and anyone with a health condition may have more risk of problems with the heat because of their age and general health. To reduce your risk of heat-related illness, take preventive measures when the heat index is high. Try to keep your body cool and well hydrated.

How to keep your body cool

A healthy body temperature is maintained by the nervous system. As body temperature goes up, it maintains normal temperature by transferring heat. Sweating and blood flow to the skin helps keep your body cool. If the humidity is higher than 75%, it’s hard for your body to cool itself by sweating.

During extreme heat, stay indoors and avoid the hottest part of the day. Dress in light clothing that allows air to circulate. Stay out of direct sunlight.

Working or exercising outdoors will also increase body temperature. Take breaks in a cooler environment and remember to drink plenty of fluids. Seniors and children often ignore their need for liquids and may need a reminder to drink enough to help stay cool and hydrated.

Check out some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remain safe and healthy in extreme heat.

Topics: Wellness