When the weather gets this hot, the hot get smart. The best defense against heat-related illness is prevention, so keep these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mind:
- Drink more (nonalcoholic) fluids no matter what you’re doing. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty and don’t assume you don’t need to drink if you’re not “being active”.
- It might sound good to gulp down an ice-cube-packed glass of lemonade, but avoid drinks high in sugar and anything that’s very cold – they can cause stomach cramps.
- If you can, stay indoors and in the air-conditioning. If you don’t have air conditioning (or yours is broken), go to a mall or public library for relief. Even if you only get relief for a few hours, it will help your body stay cooler when you’re back in the heat.
- Electric fans can help, but once the temperature reaches the high 90s fans won’t prevent heat-related illness. Try a cool shower or bath instead.
Although anyone can be susceptible to heat-related illness, some people are at a higher risk. The National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) recommends checking in regularly on infants and young children, people aged 65 or older, people who have mental illness and those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease of high blood pressure.
If you have to be outside in the heat, limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. This is a good time to limit or avoid exercise. If you have to be active out in the heat, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose as you sweat.
If you lose too much water and salt through sweating, your body may respond with heat exhaustion. Symptoms include heavy sweating, extreme weakness, dizziness, confusion, nausea, clammy skin, and fast, shallow breathing. If you think you may be suffering from heat exhaustion, rest in a cool, shaded, or air-conditioned area, drink plenty of water and take a cool shower.
Heat stroke is a more serious heat-related condition. During heat stroke, the body is unable to control its temperature and your natural sweating mechanism fails, so the body isn’t able to cool down. Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin, hallucinations, chills, a throbbing headache, high body temperature, dizziness and slurred speech. When heat stroke occurs, your body temperature rises quickly – to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Emergency treatment is absolutely necessary.
If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 immediately, and then do whatever you can to help them cool down. Be creative – soak their clothes in water, spray or shower them with water, or fan their body.
Several other heat-related conditions like heat syncope, heat cramps and heat rash also occur when the temperatures get this high. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has more information on those topics.