Summer can bring heat waves with unusually high temperatures that can last for days and sometimes weeks.
Whether you are training for a marathon or just walking in your daily regimen, heat illness can affect anyone who over exerts themselves – outside in the sun.
Heat illness is the body’s inability to cool itself. Maintaining a constant temperature of about 98.6 degrees, there are internal and external factors that when combined can produce a potentially lethal reaction.
We create our own internal body heat through the process of metabolism [the process by which our bodies convert nutrients to energy] Basal metabolism is the base amount of nutrient conversion the body needs to sustain life.
Another form of heat production occurs from muscular activity [exercise]. The blood rushing into the muscles during exercise raises the body’s core temperature and causes heat to be produced in the extremities.
The natural reaction to the rise in our body’s temperature is to sweat.
Perspiration is the body’s natural way of cooling itself. At a certain point the body loses its ability to naturally cool itself and begins to suffer from heat-related illnesses.
There are few simple ways to help prevent heat- related illnesses;
Wear the appropriate clothing for the activity in which you are participating.
- Dress in layers if you’ll be outside in temperatures that fluctuate throughout the day so you can remove clothing as you get warmer.
- Wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothing so air can easily circulate through and around your body.
- Avoid dark clothing, which heats up faster in direct sunlight.
Drink lots of cool fluids to keep your body hydrated. The more hydrated your body, the better it can regulate body heat. Water and sports drinks that replenish electrolytes are both good hydration choices. Never drink alcoholic beverages when you feel hot. Alcohol will only dehydrate your body more.
Get to a cool area if you feel hot. The best place to be on an extremely hot day is in a building with air conditioning. If you must be outside, find a shady area to sit and cool off.
Check with your doctor if you are taking any medications that may be affected by heat. Follow all doctor or pharmacist recommendations for your medications.
- Prescription medications that affect the body’s ability to cool itself off include some high blood pressure medications, and even some allergy medications.
Wear sunscreen any time you are outdoors to protect your skin and also prevent heat-related illness. Sunburn heats up your body, causing it to loose more fluids and preventing it from cooling down.
Acclimate yourself to the hot temperatures. This is especially important if you are traveling to an area that is much hotter than you are used to. Spend short amounts of time outdoors to get used to the temperature without doing any strenuous activity. Slowly increase the time until your body feels adjusted.
Schedule outdoor activities during cooler daytime hours. Mornings and evenings are generally cooler because the sun is not directly overhead. If you find yourself having to be outdoors midday, minimize some of the direct heat, by wearing a baseball cap or wide brimmed hat.
While extreme heat can be dangerous for everyone, the effects are more severe for adults over 65, infants, children and people who suffer from certain medical conditions.
Heat-related illnesses like dehydration and heat exhaustion kill hundreds of Americans each year. If you must be outdoors in hot temperatures, prevent heat-related illness by keeping your body cooled off and monitoring your hydration.
Learn more about Heat- Related Illnesses.
Have a wonderful and very safe summer!