Summer is around the corner, and we'll all be spending more time outdoors. Trips to the beach, backyard barbecues, working out, catching a ball game and hiking are all great ways to enjoy the warm weather.
However, when the mercury rises, we're all at risk of falling prey to heat-related illnesses.
While you may not think you're susceptible to heatstroke, anyone who spends a day in the sun is at risk. More than 9,000 Americans have died of heat-related deaths since 1979, and almost all those deaths occurred between the months of May and September. By keeping a few safety tips in mind, heat doesn't need to put the chill on your summer plans.
What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke is a possibly fatal condition caused by your body overheating after prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. Heatstroke can damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles, and the longer you wait to treat it, the more severe the complications can become.
The individuals with the highest risk for heatstroke include infants and young children, the elderly, pets, athletes, those with vascular or heart conditions, alcoholics, and drug abusers.
If you take a few simple measures to stay cool and avoid overexposure to the sun and heat, heatstroke doesn't have to factor in to your summer plans. The following are some strategies that may help:
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water, and make sure pets and children are drinking water, too. Keep your water in a shady area so it stays cool.
- Avoid alcohol: While a cold beer on a hot summer day can be refreshing, alcohol leads to dehydration. If you are drinking in the heat, be sure to alternate with nonalcoholic beverages.
- Replace lost minerals: Drink sports drinks that will replace the electrolytes you use through sweating.
- Dress accordingly: Wear loose-fitting, light-colored, lightweight clothing.
- Find shade: Temperatures can be much cooler in the shade. Consider sitting in a pavilion or under an umbrella.
- Check on people: The elderly are especially vulnerable to high temperatures. Check on older loved ones during heat waves and make sure they're handling the heat OK.
- Never leave anyone in parked cars: Temperatures rise quickly and dramatically in parked cars on hot days. Never leave children or pets in cars, even if the windows are cracked or the car is on.
- Avoid sunburn: Sunburns affect your body's natural cooling response. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater, and reapply every two hours or after you sweat or get out of the water.
By taking simple steps to avoid overheating, you have the power to avoid heatstroke and its dangerous consequences.