Learn how to help prevent heat-related illness and stay safe while spending time outdoors this summer.
Why is heat safety essential during the summer months?
As the temperature rises and the days grow longer, summer allows for outdoor adventures, recreation, and relaxation.
However, summer’s long days and sweltering heat pose potential health and safety risks. This is especially true for those who work outside or live in conditions where there is little relief from the sun and heat of the season.
Heat safety is essential to make the most of the summer months while protecting ourselves and our families from heat-related illnesses.
What is heat-related illness?
Heat-related illness happens when your body becomes overheated and can no longer keep itself cool. High temperatures and humidity increase the risk of this occurrence.
The three primary stages of heat-related illness occur progressively and range from mild to severe:
- Heat cramps: Strenuous activity in hot weather can cause heat cramps. Symptoms include muscle cramps, weakness, and profuse sweating.
- Heat exhaustion: Prolonged exposure to high temperatures may cause heat exhaustion. Symptoms include heavy sweating, pale skin, headache, dizziness, and nausea.
- Heat stroke: Heat stroke is the most severe stage of heat-related illness. Symptoms include a high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit), hot, dry skin, rapid pulse, and confusion. If you feel that you or someone else is experiencing symptoms indicating a heat stroke—call 911 immediately.
If you begin to experience symptoms of heat cramps, it is essential to reduce your body temperature by reducing your activity, drinking plenty of fluids, and resting in a shady or cooler environment. These simple steps can help reduce the progression of heat-related illness.
What groups of people require extra precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses?
Some individuals are more susceptible to the negative consequences of excessive heat. If you are in one of the following high-risk groups, it’s imperative that you take precautions to avoid heat-related illness.
- Older Adults
Older adults are more likely to experience heat-related illness because they sweat less and their bodies cannot efficiently regulate temperature.
- Young Children
Young children are also more likely to experience heat-related illness because they have a larger surface area to body mass ratio, which makes them more susceptible to heat exposure and excess fluid loss.
- People with chronic health conditions
Those with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease, are more susceptible to heat-related illness.
- People who work or exercise outdoors
Those who work or exercise outdoors may be more likely to experience heat-related illness due to extended heat exposure and dehydration.
What heat safety tips can help you stay safe during the summer months?
Take precautions to help you and your family enjoy the summer and avoid heat-related illness.
The following heat safety tips are for everyone:
Throughout the summer months:
- Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty.
- Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day.
- Check on friends, elderly neighbors, and relatives.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you.
- Eat small, frequent meals that are high in fluids.
- If you are taking medication, check with your doctor to see if it can affect your body's ability to regulate heat.
- Never leave children or pets in a hot car.
- Make sure your pets have plenty of water.
- Stay informed. Watch your local news and weather for updates.
In your home:
- Stay in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible.
- Take cool showers or baths.
- Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.
- Limit the stove and oven use—it will make you and your house hotter.
If you must go outside:
- Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
- Take frequent breaks to cool down in a shady or air-conditioned location.
- Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin.
- Make sure you have access to water and consume it regularly.
Heat safety precautions benefit everyone.
Remember, it's not just about you. Take time to share the above information and take precautions. Most importantly, be aware of heat-related illness symptoms and how to respond. You could save a life.