Becoming overheated can happen quickly during the hot summer months. According to Mayo Clinic, heat illness or heat-related illness is a spectrum of disorders due to environmental exposure to heat. It includes minor conditions such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion as well as the more severe condition known as heat stroke. Consider these tips this summer to prevent heat-related illnesses.
- Pace yourself. Cut down on exercise during the heat. If you’re not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop all activity, get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.
- Avoid hot and heavy meals. They add heat to your body.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
- Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks. These cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Replace salt and minerals. Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
- Check for updates. Check your local news for extreme heat alerts, safety tips, and to learn about any cooling shelters that may be available when attending outdoor events.
- Know the signs. Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and how to treat them.
- Use a buddy system. When at an outdoor event, monitor the condition of your friends/family and have someone to do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness.
- Monitor those at high risk. Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness some people are at greater risk than others.
- People 65 years of age or older.
- People who are overweight.
- People who overexert during work or exercise.
- People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation.
- Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.
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