Summer is one of the best times of the year to be outside. The days are long, the weather is warm, and there is an abundance of activities and events that pull us out of our comfortable air-conditioned homes and into the warm summer sun. However, amidst the dog days of summer, we can easily forget the dangers of high temperatures and humidity, which can cause an increase in body temperature and heat-related illnesses.
The most common heat-related illnesses are:
- Heat rash or prickly heat is an isolated rash that occurs when sweat fails to evaporate off of the skin and causes irritation, swelling, and itching of the skin.
- Heat cramps are muscle cramps caused by a loss of body salts and fluids due to excessive sweating.
- Heat exhaustion can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, and heavy sweating, which occurs as a result of a loss of body salt due to excessive sweating.
- Heat stroke is a very serious medical condition in which your body can no longer regulate its core temperature. Signs of heat stroke include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures. 911 should be called immediately if heat stroke occurs.
Because heat-related illnesses can pose a serious threat to our health, we need to take several precautions when spending extended time in the summer heat. Listed below are some tips to keep you safe in the summer sun.
- Check the weather. Heat related illnesses are most likely to occur at temperatures of 80° F or more. Your risk also increases as the humidity rises. Before being active in the hot weather, be sure to check the temperature as well as the humidity. Pay attention to the heat index to get a better sense of how hot it feels outside with humidity included.
- Drink water before, during, and after exposure to the heat to replace lost fluids and prevent dehydration. Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine because they increase your risk of dehydration.
- Stay out of the sun whenever possible. If you need to be outside, try waiting until a cooler part of the day such as early in the morning or later in the evening.
- Stay cool as often as possible. Take breaks from the heat in the shade or in air conditioning. Cool yourself with water or a cold bath throughout the day if necessary.
- Dress appropriately. Clothing should be lightweight and loose-fitting to allow for air circulation and sweat evaporation. Hats can help shade your head from the sun, but should allow for good ventilation.
You can find out more about heat-related illnesses in our Health Center. How do you stay cool in the summer heat? Let us know below!