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Staying Safe in the Summer Heat
We’re all ready to soak up some warm, sunny weather, but it’s important to keep an eye on time spent in the summer heat. When temperatures rise, so does our risk for heat cramps, exhaustion, and heat stroke.
The bad news: Minor heat illnesses can quickly progress to more serious conditions when left untreated, so if you suspect someone is suffering from the heat, it’s important to act fast.
The good news: Heat illnesses are preventable. Arm yourself with these preventive tips before heading out to enjoy the summer weather
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE HEAT:
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated; alcohol and soda dehydrate the body further.
- Plan outdoors activities for early or late in the day when the sun is less intense. Avoid outdoor activities from 10 am – 3 pm when possible.
- Take breaks. Seek out shade, a cool shower, a fan, or step indoors for a blast of AC.
- Don’t lose track of time. If you regularly work outdoors (e.g., landscaping, construction) or tend to get very focused on an outdoor project / activity, set a timer to remember to take a break.
- Never leave people or pets in parked vehicles during warm weather no matter how quickly you plan to run an errand. Even with the windows cracked, car temperatures escalate to dangerous levels in minutes and can cause severe, lasting health damage or death.
- Know your risks. Certain medications may increase your risk for sunburn or affect how well you handle the heat, so be sure to check their labels. For example, antihistamines, anti-depressants, diuretics, and blood pressure drugs can all make it more difficult to regulate body temperature.
- Some health conditions are affected negatively by heat. Chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and sleep deprivation put you at greater risk for trouble with heat; take more frequent breaks, avoid high temperatures, and stay hydrated.
- If it hits the 90s, stay inside. Indoor activities are a better bet when the heat hits 90+ degrees.
- Learn to recognize the signs of heat illness and take quick action to keep it from progressing.
Recognizing Common Types of Heat Illness:
Heat cramps—Heat cramps are an early warning sign that your body is stressed. If you experience any muscle cramping while enjoying a hot day, stop whatever you’re doing, go inside or seek shade to rest, and drink water to rehydrate and cool down.
Heat exhaustion – While many people have heard of heat stroke, they aren’t always as familiar with its precursor: heat exhaustion. Early warning signs of heat exhaustion include headaches, nausea, vomiting, intense sweating, pale skin, and increasing irritability, sleepiness, or loss of concentration / coordination. Drink water and take a cool shower or bath to cool off quickly. If a person exhibits these symptoms then passes out, call 9-1-1.
Heat stroke — Heat stroke is a medical emergency that can result in death or permanent disability without proper treatment. Symptoms include a rapid pulse, red dry skin, high body temperature, headaches, dizziness, and loss of consciousness. In this condition, the body can no longer cool off on its own and can reach fatal temperatures. Call 9-1-1 immediately and move the affected person out of the heat. Remove their clothing, place ice along the groin, armpits, wrists, and neck, cover the person with a wet sheet, and blow a fan over them until help arrives.
When it comes to beating the heat, it’s better to play it safe. Take care to stay hydrated, plan activities to avoid high heat, remember to rest, act quickly if you suspect heat illness, and know how to cool down to safely enjoy the summer.
Angela Dixon, CRNP is a certified registered nurse practitioner specializing in family medicine and preventive care for patients of all ages at the Mansfield Laurel Health Center. She is passionate about helping patients improve their health and overall wellness. For more information or to make an appointment, call 570-662-2002 or visit laurelhc.org.
About the Laurel Health Centers
The Laurel Health Centers offer award-winning family medicine and behavioral health services for the whole family throughout Tioga County, including sites in Blossburg, Mansfield, Lawrenceville, Westfield, Elkland, and Wellsboro, PA. The Laurel Health Centers are committed to serving all patients regardless of their ability to pay, offering a sliding fee scale to ensure all patients receive the care they need. Services include pediatrics, family medicine, women’s health, preventive wellness care, nutrition, diabetes education, internal medicine, chiropractic care, sports medicine, mental health, dental services, addiction recovery, and chronic disease management. For more information, call 1-833-LAURELHC or visit laurelhc.org.
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Writing: Angela Dixon, CRNP /
Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner / The Laurel Health Centers
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