The seemingly endless months of gray skies, freezing temperatures and snow storms have finally given way to warm weather and sunshine. While that’s good news its important to enjoy the summer carefully and safely. One of the risks to be aware of during hot weather is the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Possible heat exhaustion signs and symptoms include: Heavy sweating, faintness, dizziness, nausea, headache and high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit). Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition.
Young children and adults older than 65 are at higher risk of heat exhaustion. Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity. Certain medications, including some used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems can affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and respond appropriately to heat.
Fortunately, heat exhaustion is preventable. You can take a number of precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. When temperatures climb, remember to:
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing to let your body cool properly.
- Wear a lightweight, wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun.
- Stay in a cool place. Being in an air-conditioned building, even for just a few hours, is one of the best ways to prevent heat exhaustion. If your home doesn’t have an air conditioner, consider spending time at a library or shopping mall.
- Apply sunscreen to any exposed skin. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to rid itself of heat.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature.
- Take extra precautions with certain medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether the medications you take make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion.
- Let your body acclimate to the heat. If you travel to somewhere hot, or the temperatures suddenly jump in your area, it can take several weeks for your body to get used to the heat.
- It’s best not to exercise or engage in any strenuous activity in hot weather, but if you must, rest frequently in a cool spot and replenish your fluids.