Summer months mean hot and humid weather, pool and beach trips and more opportunity to spend time outside. While you are enjoying time in the heat, it’s important to stay safe.
Prolonged exposure to hot temperatures can put someone at risk for heatstroke, which can be a very serious condition. When you spend time in hot weather, you cool off by sweating, which causes you to lose body fluids. If you don’t replace these fluids, you can become dehydrated. Your body may have difficulty sweating and cooling down. Heatstroke occurs when the body fails to cool itself down, and the body temperature rises to a fever. Many will feel faint, dizzy or even nauseated.
“A key symptom,” says Dawn Sweet, RN, BSN, clinical nurse manager of the Grandview Medical Center Emergency Department, “is the person’s level of dehydration. One sign to look for is if someone stops sweating, even in the heat.” Other symptoms of heat stroke include quickened heart rate and fast and shallow breathing. Children and the elderly are especially likely to experience confusion or disorientation.
What should you do?
If someone is exhibiting symptoms of heat stroke, take steps to try to cool them down. “It’s important to cool the person down slowly to prevent sudden shock,” Sweet explains. If the person is awake, she advises getting them into a cool or lukewarm shower to try to bring body temperature down. You can also apply ice packs to areas of the body that have blood vessels close to the skin—under the arms, in the groin and the back of the neck are key places.
If the person is losing consciousness, is confused or if the cool shower and ice packs don’t work to bring the body temperature down, then call 9-1-1 for emergency intervention. Lowering the body temperature may take more than just cool water, and paramedics can administer IVs for rehydration.
How can you stay safe?
There are important preventive measures to take in avoiding heatstroke. Take breaks in shaded areas if you’re going to be outside for a long period of time. Also, make sure you stay hydrated with water or juice that has electrolytes. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are dehydrators. Wearing loose clothing and limiting exposure to direct sunlight can help keep you safe.
If you plan to exercise outdoors, try to do so early in the morning or after sunset and be sure to reduce the intensity of your workout. This way you can beat the heat and still get in a healthy workout under the sun.
“It’s important to stay active and stay healthy in the summer months,” says Sweet. “We just want to make sure we’re doing it safely.”