Summertime activities often mean fun in the sun, but as temperatures heat way up, it’s important to remember to play safely and prevent heat-related illnesses that can be deadly if proper precautions aren’t taken. Heat exposure results in deaths every year, so knowing and following basic safety tips can help you avoid the dangers and enjoy the warmer months.
Look for these signs of heat exhaustion and take immediate precautionary action if you or anyone you’re with has: breathing that is shallow and fast, clammy skin, dizziness, dry mouth, excessive sweating, loss of color in the skin or an unusually pale skintone. People experiencing heat exhaustion often feel nausea, have a headache or may faint. They may vomit or complain that they are tired.
If these symptoms are present, get out of the heat immediately. The person with the symptoms should be given plenty of cool fluids right away, and it will help to wipe them down with a cool cloth. If you don’t see rapid improvement of their condition, call 911 immediately.
Major heat exposure can cause a heat stroke, and this condition always requires immediate medical attention. Signs include dizziness, extremely high body temperature (over 103 degrees) throbbing headache, lack of sweating, rapid strong pulse, nausea and red skin that is hot and dry to the touch.
When these signs are present, get the person out of the heat immediately and go to the nearest hospital or call 911 right away. This is an extremely serious condition that can be fatal if not quickly treated.
- Never leave children or pets alone in a closed vehicle. Temperatures inside can soar well above 100 degrees in a matter of minutes, and exposure to this level of heat is a killer.
- Drink plenty of water on hot days. Symptoms of dehydration can happen quickly and go unnoticed.
- Try to avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine — they make the heat’s effect on your body worse and can dehydrate you more rapidly.
- Wear loose and light-colored clothing on hot days. Lighter colors help reflect sunlight and will keep you cooler.
- Stay in the shade and go inside during the hottest part of the day. Air conditioning provides the safest escape during periods of extreme heat.
- Slow down! Strenuous activity during extreme heat is dangerous. If you have outdoor work or a workout session scheduled, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is normally in the early morning.
The elderly, the very young and overweight people are at the greatest risk for heat exhaustion. In urban areas the problem can be more extreme since asphalt and concrete store heat longer and release it at night. The atmospheric conditions can trap pollutants from traffic and industry, and the mix of high heat and unhealthy air can be lethal. Health risks become greater in these conditions, especially for those individuals with respiratory difficulties.