You can take a number of precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. When temperatures climb, remember to:
- Wear loosefitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Excess, dark or tight clothing holds in heat and doesn't let your body cool properly because it inhibits sweat evaporation.
- Avoid sunburn. If you're going to be outdoors, wear a lightweight, wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun, and apply sunscreen to any exposed skin. Having a sunburn reduces your body's ability to rid itself of heat.
- Seek a cooler 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. At the least, find a well-shaded spot. Fans alone aren't adequate to counter high heat and humidity.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature. If your doctor has told you to limit fluids because of a health condition, be sure to check with him or her about how much extra you need to drink when the temperature rises. Avoid alcoholic beverages.
- Take extra precautions with certain medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether the medications you take make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion and, if so, what you can do to keep your body from overheating.
- Avoid hot spots. On a hot day, the temperature in your parked car can rise 20 F (about 6.7 C) in just 10 minutes. Let your car cool off before you drive it. Never leave children or anyone else in a parked car in hot weather for any period of time.
- 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. You'll still need to take precautions, but working or exercising in heat should become more tolerable. If you're on vacation, you probably don't have several weeks to wait, but it's a good idea to wait at least a few days before attempting vigorous activity in the heat.
It's best not to exercise or do any strenuous activity in hot weather, but if you must, follow the same precautions and rest frequently in a cool spot. Taking breaks and replenishing your fluids during that time will help your body regulate your temperature.
Nov. 18, 2011
- Heat injury and heat exhaustion. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00319. Accessed Aug. 17, 2011.
- Extreme heat: A prevention guide to promote your personal health and safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp. Accessed Aug. 17, 2011.
- Platt M, et al. Heat illness. In: Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..X0001-1--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Aug. 18, 2011.
- Mechem CC. Severe hyperthermia (heat stroke) in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 18, 2011.
- Mattis JG, et al. Heat stroke: Helping patients keep their cool. Nurse Practitioner. 2011;36:48.
- Using the heat index: A guide for employers. U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/index.html. Accessed Aug. 24, 2011.