It’s hot outside and you feel like your body can’t cool down no matter how much water you drink or shade you find. Don’t worry, you probably just have heat exhaustion – but if not, it could be heat stroke, a potentially deadly condition that makes your body temperature spike above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, there are some things that you can do to prevent heat strokes when the temperatures get dangerously high! Here are some tips to keep your body cool, comfortable, and safe from heat stroke this summer.
It’s easy to get dehydrated in hot temperatures—and it can have serious consequences. Dehydration makes your heart work harder, which means your heart can overheat and lead to a heat stroke. To prevent dehydration and keep yourself cool, drink plenty of water throughout the day. You may also want to consider lightly salting your water; a small amount of salt helps maintain electrolyte balance and keeps you hydrated. If you’re not used to drinking water with added salt, start slowly by adding just half a teaspoon per glass. As your body adjusts, gradually increase how much salt you add until you reach one teaspoon per glass.
Avoid strenuous activity
If it’s extremely hot outside, keep your physical activity to a minimum. The body loses more water and electrolytes in extreme temperatures, so it’s best to keep exertion at a minimum in extremely hot or humid conditions. If working outside during these conditions is necessary, take frequent breaks in shady areas and stay hydrated. And be sure to wear protective clothing that blocks ultraviolet rays. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts whenever possible. If you are exercising outdoors, drink plenty of fluids before beginning exercise, while exercising, and after exercise to prevent dehydration. Even mild dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue during hot weather.
Wear appropriate clothing
It might be tempting to wear as little clothing as possible when it’s hot outside, but consider that loose, lightweight clothing is much better at keeping your body temperature from rising. A hat and sunblock can also help prevent heat-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control recommend lighter colors that reflect UV rays. This can keep your body temperature cool enough so you don’t have to sweat as much. Lightweight fabrics like cotton or linen are great choices, too.
People who are most susceptible to developing heat stroke and/or other conditions brought on by extremely high temperatures include, but are not limited to young children, people over age 65, pregnant women, and those with chronic health problems such as diabetes or heart disease and people taking certain medications. All of these individuals may already be more vulnerable due to existing medical conditions that can make it more difficult for them to adapt and cope with extreme temperatures. If you have any of these conditions, please consult your doctor before going outside in hot weather.
Know your medications
Heat-related illnesses are more common in people taking certain medications. While some medicines are safe to take during a heat wave, your doctor can help you weigh your risks. Some of these medicines include blood pressure drugs; antidepressants; antihistamines; antipsychotics; sedatives; drugs to control seizures and treat bipolar disorder (anti-manic drugs); Parkinson’s disease medications; anxiety, sleep, and other psychiatric medication. If you have any questions about whether your medications are safe in hot weather, call your doctor or pharmacist. Also, be sure to check with them before stopping or starting any new medicine.
Limit outdoor time
If you do spend time outside, try to limit how much time you spend in direct sunlight. If possible, plan activities to take place during parts of the day when it is cooler (like early morning and evening). If working outside is unavoidable, at least wear a hat and light-colored clothing. A wide-brimmed hat will provide better protection from the sun’s rays than a standard baseball cap. The lighter your clothing, the more effective it will be at reflecting UV radiation away from your body. Also, avoid wearing dark colors because they absorb UV radiation. Take breaks: It’s important to know that even if you are not feeling hot or sweaty, there is still a risk of heat illness. To avoid overheating, take frequent breaks inside or under shade when doing outdoor work in warm weather.
Have air conditioning available
Having air conditioning available is one of the best ways to prevent overheating. You’re generally going to be safe as long as your indoor temperature stays below 75 degrees fahrenheit. If you have a window unit, it might not be powerful enough to cool a large room; in that case, bring in a box fan and place it by an open window. As an alternative, turn on your ceiling fans; they provide a cool breeze without increasing temperatures too much. (Don’t forget to close those windows!) A small oscillating fan can also help if placed near your body—you won’t need to move around as much to stay cool. If you don’t have air conditioning or a way to keep cool at home, try staying indoors during peak times—11 am-4 pm—or try shopping during off hours. At work, ask your boss if there are any rooms with air conditioning that aren’t being used during peak hours.
Try alternative activities indoors
If you’re concerned about staying cool, be proactive in seeking shelter. Running an air conditioner can help prevent a heat-related illness, as can spending time in an indoor pool or other cool location. When going outside is unavoidable, wear loose-fitting clothing and try to get out of direct sunlight whenever possible. And if you do feel yourself getting overheated, take a break from your activity and find some shade—or even better, head indoors—to rest. Heat exhaustion can progress into more serious problems if left untreated; therefore it’s important to recognize symptoms and seek medical attention immediately if they appear.