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10 Ways to Stay Well in the Summer Heat

Swimming pools, sno-cones, suntans and long summer nights... there's no question why so many of us love spending time outdoors during the summer. With temperatures consistently climbing above the 100-degree mark, the risk for heat-related health problems increases dramatically. According to heat-safety experts, some of the most common heat-related symptoms to watch for include:

  • Confusion

  • Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Muscle or abdominal cramps

  • Nausea

  • Pale skin

  • Profuse sweating

  • Rapid heartbeat

Here are some tips for keeping yourself, your family, and your pets healthy in the midst of the scorching summer heat.

1. Stay hydrated.

Proper hydration is essential to helping your body fight off symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Experts recommend for individuals to consume at least half their body weight in ounces of water per day (i.e. 60 ounces of water for a 120-pound person). Stay away from drinks that contain high levels of sugar or caffeine, such as soda or alcoholic beverages, as these substances act as diuretics that accelerate dehydration.

2. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Dark-colored clothing absorbs heat waves from the sun, adding extra strain on your body to regulate its normal temperature. Dress in light-colored, light-weight, loose-fitting clothing to help keep your body cool and avoid heat exhaustion symptoms.

3. Put on a hat and sunglasses.

These are not just stylish accessories for your summer outfit--hats and sunglasses are very beneficial tools for blocking harmful ultraviolet rays from your skin and eyes. A significant portion of your body heat is released through your head, so look for a sunhat or cap that has ventilation to keep your face shaded and your head cool. As for sunglasses, search for styles that feature tinted lenses to reduce strain on your eyes. If you wear glasses or contacts, check with your local eye doctor to explore prescription sunglasses options.

4. Plan your activities around the weather forecast.

This may seem like an obvious suggestion; however, planning your outdoor activities around the hottest parts of the day is one of the best ways to ensure wellness and avoid heat exhaustion. If at all possible, avoid strenuous outdoor activity from around noon-6pm when the sun is at its hottest point. Even if it means setting your alarm before sunrise, taking care of outdoor activities like mowing or gardening before the heat sets in can save you a lot of trouble later in the day.

5. Check on your pets.

Make sure your pets have access to water and shade at all times. Avoid leaving your pets outside for extended periods of time, especially in the afternoon heat. And please do not leave your pets in vehicles--even if the windows are cracked, temperatures can still rise beyond tolerable levels. As little as five minutes inside a hot car can be detrimental to your pets' health.

6. Avoid eating processed, starchy foods.

Fueling your body with processed foods, such as chips or candy, or high-starch, high-fat foods, such as french fries or other fried foods, can accelerate symptoms of heat exhaustion such as headache or nausea. If you are planning to be outside for an extended period of time, pack some healthy snack choices, like fruit or nuts, to give yourself proper nutrition for the weather conditions.

7. Eat more smaller meals throughout the day.

Rather than having two or three meals where you consume large amounts of food and calories, try spacing your calorie intake throughout the day in five or six smaller meals. Consuming smaller amounts of food at a time has many proven health benefits, especially in terms of avoiding fatigue, hunger, and nausea during the hot summer months.

8. Seek shade and air-conditioning when possible.

The glow of a summer suntan is a commonly desired feature; however, spending extended periods of time in direct sunlight can be very harmful to your body in more ways than one. Skin damage from excessive sun exposure, increased body temperature, headache, nausea, and dehydration are just some of the potential effects of staying in the sun too long. Seek shade and/or air-conditioning periodically to keep your body feeling well, even if you have to take your own shade with you in the form of an umbrella or sunhat.

9. Slap on the sunscreen.

No, tanning oil doesn't count. Lather your body in a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays that can cause early aging, dry skin, skin irritation, and even skin cancer. Reapply frequently--we recommend at least once an hour if you are constantly in the sun--and make sure to get some of the frequently missed parts of your body such as your scalp/hair line, tops of your ears, and feet.

10. Pick a sun-buddy.

Never perform strenuous outdoor activities by yourself, especially in the summer heat. Heat-related illnesses and injuries can happen quicker than you might expect, so make sure you have a friend or family member (a.k.a. your sun-buddy) that can check on you to make sure you are not experiencing heat-related symptoms. If you see someone who appears to be suffering from heat-related illness, check on that person, offer a water, and suggest that he/she relocate to a shady, cooler location for 10-20 minutes.

Source: "Heat Exhaustion." (2018). WebMD.


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