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Summer Heat Safety

Pool days, grill-outs, boating, vacations – summer is finally here! The summer months come with fun outdoor activities, but precautions need to be taken while enjoying this outdoor time. Staying hydrated is important, especially during the hot summer months. Hydration helps maintain a normal body temperature, lubricates and cushions joints, protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, gets rid of waste through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements, and supports heart and gut health. ¹ Some circumstances require you to hydrate more, such as: ¹

  • Hot climates

  • Physical activity

  • Running a fever

  • Experiencing diarrhea or vomiting


While out and about this summer, it’s important to know and understand the heat related risks associated with high outdoor temperatures.


Beat the heat this summer

Heat-Related Illnesses

Heat-related illnesses can become very dangerous, very fast. From dehydration to heat stroke and more, summer can bring dangerous situations if you aren’t prepared. Many of these heat-related illnesses may sound and look similar, so it’s important to understand the differences to know how to act.


heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Dehydration

Dehydration happens when your body is losing more fluids than you take in. ² If not treated, dehydration can lead to more serious problems such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to identify the symptoms of dehydration in children and adults: ²

  • Thirst

  • Dark yellow, strong-smelling urine

  • Urinating less often

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Tiredness

  • Dry mouth, lips, and tongue

  • Sunken eyes


If you find yourself having any of the mentioned symptoms, you should drink fluids, starting with small sips rather than big gulps, and get to a cool area indoors.


Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is losing excessive amounts of water and salt, usually through sweating profusely. ³ It can also be due to dehydration, overexercise, or strenuous work in hot weather. ⁴ A lot of heat exhaustion symptoms are like those of dehydration: ³ ⁴

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Irritability

  • Urinating less often


Aside from those similarities, these are other symptoms to look out for that are different than those of dehydration: ³ ⁴

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Weakness

  • Heavy sweating

  • Elevated body temperature


Heat exhaustion needs to be addressed immediately before it worsens. If you or someone around you is experiencing heat exhaustion, remove them from the hot area and give liquids to drink in small sips. Remove any tight clothing or layers, apply a cold compress to the head, face, and neck, and lie them down to reduce risk of injury if fainting occurs. If necessary, call 911 if symptoms do not improve or if the person affected starts vomiting. ⁵


Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and can cause permanent disability or death if not given emergency treatment. ³ During a heat stroke, the body can no longer control its temperature, causing it to rise rapidly to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. ³ Since heat stroke can cause permanent damage if not treated right away, it is crucial to correctly identify its symptoms:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, or slurred speech

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Hot, dry skin

  • Seizures

  • Very high body temperature

  • Rapid and strong pulse or heart rate


Call 911 immediately if someone is experiencing a heat stroke as this is a medical emergency and may result in permanent disability or death if not treated right away. Move the person to a cool area and help lower their temperature by applying cool cloths, a cool bath, soaking their clothes with cool water, and circulating air to speed up cooling. It is also noted to NOT give them anything to drink as this may lead to vomiting and convulsions. ⁵


Other Heat-Related Illnesses

There are other heat-related illnesses that are important to learn about even though they may not be as serious as the others mentioned above. Just because these are not as serious, it does not mean they should go untreated. Any heat-related illness needs to be addressed, no matter the severity.  These other illnesses include:


Heat Cramps: occur when the body’s salt levels decrease due to excessive sweating. Symptoms include muscle pain or spasms and heavy sweating during intense exercise. If you are experiencing heat cramps, drink water and eat a snack to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes. ³ It’s also important to move to a cool place and stop any physical activity until the cramps go away. ⁵


Heat Rash: a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. This can look like red clusters of pimples or small blisters that usually appear on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases. ³ To help alleviate heat rash, stay in a cool, dry area, keep the rash area dry, apply powder (e.g. baby powder), and avoid using ointments and creams.


Sunburn: reddening of the skin from being overexposed to the sun or other ultraviolet light. It may take time for a sunburn to first appear and may not take full effect for 24 hours or longer. ⁶ Sunburns look like red, tender skin that is warm to the touch but may later form blisters, cause severe reactions such as fever, chills, nausea, or rash, and skin peeling days after. To help ease pain associated with sunburns, stay out of the sun until healed, put moisturizing lotion on the affected areas, stay hydrated, and do not break any blisters. It is important to note that although sunburns are temporary, the damage they can cause to the skin cells is permanent.


Tips to Stay Cool & Hydrated

Too much fun in the sun can be dangerous so following these easy tips can help you keep cool and hydrated while still enjoying your summer.


Fueling Your Body

Eating hydrating foods and drinking appropriate liquids will help keep you hydrated during the day. Some great food options include watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, soups, bell peppers, low-fat meats like chicken breast, and even spicy foods like salsa. Sipping water throughout the day is a great way to stay hydrated. Don’t wait to drink until you are thirsty! If you prefer something other than water, try a sugar-free juice or if you are participating in physical activity, an electrolyte sports drink may be a good option. Try to avoid alcohol but if you do choose to indulge, drink a bottle of water between brews to stay hydrated. ⁷


Protecting Your Body

Wearing the right type of clothing and other protectants can help immensely to keep you cool during a hot summer day. Loose, light-colored, cotton clothing are great options to wear to allow you to sweat. Another great clothing option is sun-protective clothing. This type of clothing uses special dyes and chemicals to block harmful UV rays. ⁷ Hats and sunglasses are functional options to keep the hot sun off your head and out of your eyes. Even if you’re covered up, don’t forget the sunscreen! Give extra care to easily burnt areas such as the nose, ears, shoulders, and back of neck. It’s also a good idea to use a lip balm with SPF to keep your lips from burning.


Now you are ready to enjoy your summer while staying safe! If you have any questions about other ways to stay hydrated or safe from the heat, talk to our pharmacist for recommendations. Shop in-store for sunscreen, bug repellents, and more!

 

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