The arrival of summer brings back memories of lazy days at the pool, gorgeous sunsets, and spending time in the backyard with friends and family. But as temperatures start to climb, there are certain health risks that increase, too. Even spending time in your garden can be dangerous when extreme heat, sun exposure, and dehydration enter the picture. It’s important to know how to protect yourself and your family, minimize the adverse effects, and learn how to have fun without putting yourself in harm’s way. As long as you follow these tips over the next couple of months, you should be in great shape.
Avoid Certain Hours
Getting your daily time outside can be beneficial for your body — you just need to know when it’s better to stay indoors. In general, you should avoid spending too much time outside during the hottest times of the day. Typically, the hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. bring those scorching rays. If you need to get outside, do it in the early morning or later in the evening. You’ll benefit from cooler temperatures and much more shade that way.
Hydrate and Replenish
Your need for hydration cannot be overstated. Most of us don’t drink enough water as it is, but the effects of dehydration can be extremely hazardous in the summer. In times of extreme heat, you should be drinking two to four glasses of water per hour. You should also replace salt and minerals with sports drinks, particularly if you’re engaged in physical activity or have been outdoors for any length of time. Keep in mind that amping up your fruit and veggie consumption will help, too. Avoid sugary drinks, alcohol, and heavy meals to help you stay cool.
Protect Your Body
You can protect yourself from the sun and the heat by wearing the proper clothing and sunblock. According to the American Society for Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, the standard human comfort range for light clothing in summertime is between 72 and 78 degrees. You’ll want to put on light-colored clothing that’s breathable and loose-fitting, wear a sunhat and sunglasses, and apply a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 (some experts say 30) or higher. Don’t forget that sunburn can actually dehydrate your entire body, so you should avoid it at all costs. Feel like you’ve been out in the sun too long? Go inside in the air conditioned house immediately.
Know the Dangerous Signs
The more familiar you are with the adverse effects of heat-related illnesses, the better off you’ll be.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms of heat stroke include 103-degree body temperatures (or higher); dry, red, hot, or damp skin; headache; nausea; strong pulse; confusion; and loss of consciousness. While you can help lower the individual’s temperature with a cool bath or cool cloths, you should not give them anything to drink. Help them get to a cool place and call 911.
Heat exhaustion symptoms typically include nausea or vomiting; muscular cramps; dizziness or weakness; headache; fainting; heavy sweating, weak pulse; and pale and clammy skin. Use the same methods of cooling down the person’s temperature (cool cloths, cool baths, and moving to a cool place). You can, however, allow them to sip water. If they vomit or symptoms last for more than an hour (or get worse), call for emergency medical help.
And according to Prevention.com, dehydration symptoms extend beyond basic thirst (though if you do feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated). Dry mouth, dark urine, dry skin, urinary output decrease, muscle cramps, low blood pressure, fatigue, headache, and constipation are all symptoms of dehydration. If you’re experiencing mild dehydration symptoms, you may feel better after you sip water and eat a salty snack. If that doesn’t work, try a sports drink with electrolytes. If you vomit, faint, or can’t think clearly, seek medical attention right away.
Check Up On Loved Ones
While anyone can experience symptoms of sunstroke or dehydration, there are certain individuals who are more vulnerable to these effects. These vulnerable individuals include older adults, young children, those who are overweight, those taking certain medications, those with chronic medical conditions, those who live in urban areas, and people who work in the outdoors. Although the construction industry eliminated more than 40% of its work force between 2006 and 2011, construction workers, landscapers, and others who spend a great deal of time out in the sun are at particular risk for heat-related conditions. Be sure to check up on those you know who fit these criteria (particularly if they don’t have air conditioning at home) and bring reinforcements if necessary.
Prepare For an Outage
Extreme conditions can lead to power outages, particularly when storms are on the horizon. This can be bad news when the temperatures soar, as you won’t be able to run your air conditioning or fans, much less keep drinks cool or charge your phone to get in contact with loved ones. If your power does go out, be sure to keep windows and blinds shut to keep the cool air inside (and keep the freezer and fridge closed for the same reasons). Around 660,000 drivers use cell phones or other electronic devices behind the wheel at any daylight moment in the United States. That’s not great news for road safety but could provide you with a viable way to charge your phone if you have no electricity at home. You may also want to consider heading to a public place with AC like the library, mall, or movie theater — provided they have electricity — to stay cool, rehydrate, and recharge your devices.
Keeping cool in extreme heat may not always be easy. But if you’re prepped for the worst, you’ll be a lot more comfortable and safe this summer.