It’s summer time, so of course we want enjoy as many extra hours of sunlight and beautiful weather as we can but we need to do it safely, especially during a heat wave. Here are some helpful tips to keep you safe.
1. Drink water. Drink more water. Then, drink some water again.
When temperatures rise, it’s time to drink up. Evaporation of sweat cools the skin, which in turn helps to cool the whole body. Drinking water helps replenish the fluids lost by excessive sweating. If you don’t get enough water, you may become dehydrated, and the combination of hot temperatures and dehydration can lead to serious heat-related illnesses.
Medical Director of Garnet Health Urgent Care, Rona Heublum-Colton MD, FAAP, FACP, recommends sports drinks, as well, which help replenish electrolytes and avoiding caffeinated drinks as they can dehydrate you.
2. Choose to stay inside.
According to the Red Cross, if you don’t have air conditioning at home, think about visiting a public place during the hottest point of the day.
Some suggestions? Libraries, movie theaters, shopping malls, restaurants are cool places to enjoy during a heat wave. If you have to be outside on a very hot day, Dr. Heublum-Colton says it’s important to avoid rigorous activity and stay in the shade, if possible.
3. Apply and reapply sunscreen.
Did you know that as you sweat or run into and out of the water, your sunscreen will start to disintegrate? In about two hours of wearing it, it’s less than 50 percent of what it was when you initially applied it. And even if it says sweat-proof on the bottle, you still have to reapply.
The American Academy of Dermatology (ADD) suggests using an SPF of at least 30 or higher. It should also be water resistant and offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Ideally, the ADD suggests reapplying every two hours and immediately after swimming or sweating.
4. Know the danger signs.
Even if you protect yourself during a heat wave, it’s still important to know the signs of heat stroke — and who is at risk. According to the National Weather Service, symptoms of heat stroke include high body temperatures, red skin, a weak or rapid pulse, change in consciousness, muscle cramps, vomiting, seizures or confusion.
Anyone can get heat stroke, but children and the elderly are particularly at risk, along with people with heart disease or high blood pressure.
If you notice someone with the signs of heat stroke, make sure to call 911 before anything else. While waiting for help to arrive, do whatever you can to help the person cool down, such as covering them with bags of ice, spraying them with cold water or laying cold towels on their body.
5. Take care of your pets.
Heat waves don’t just affect people — they can affect our furry friends, too. The ASPCA encourages pet owners to supply plenty of clean, fresh water and to limit walks outside, as the ground can be too hot for paws. Also, never leave a pet in a parked car, says Dr. Heublum-Colton. This can lead to heat stroke (not to mention it’s also against the law in several states).
As you’re planning your next beach day or barbecue, keep these potential issues top of mind —and take the necessary steps to help prevent a last minute trip to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care office.
Next Steps and Useful Resources