Picture your ideal summer day. Do you see yourself soaking up the sun with a drink in hand? Or maybe playing a game of soccer on a humid day? Just be careful. Overexposure to hot weather can put your body at risk for heat exhaustion or a more serious condition called heat stroke.
Vigorous exercise or exposure to extreme heat or humidity can inhibit your body's ability to cool itself effectively. This can result in heat stroke, a dangerous condition that can cause brain damage and death. But you don't have to forgo the sun to avoid heat stroke. Instead, take a few precautions.
What Is Heat Stroke?
The body is normally very effective at cooling itself. You lose some heat through your skin by sweating. However, when you become dehydrated, your body is unable to produce enough sweat to cool itself. As a result, your body temperature can rise to 104 degrees or higher and heat stroke can strike. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can lead to heat stroke.
Know the symptoms:
- confusion, agitation, or disorientation
- feeling sluggish or fatigued
- hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
- an extremely high temperature
- loss of consciousness
- rapid heart beat
What Should You Do if You Think You or Someone You're with Has Heat Stroke?
If you think you or someone you know has heat stroke, call 9-1-1. It's important to get help right away. While you're waiting for emergency personnel to arrive, get the person out of the heat and have them lie down with their feet elevated in a cool area. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply ice packs to the groin and armpits. You may also apply water and fan the person, which may induce sweating.
Medical personnel may need to administer intravenous fluids to rehydrate and balance electrolytes. The person will need to rest and their body may have trouble regulating its temperature for a few weeks.
If you think you have heat stroke, don't hesitate to call for medical help. Waiting to see if you get better can result in a dangerous situation. Though you may want to shrug it off, consider whether or not you'd call for help if someone you love was experiencing the same symptoms. You deserve to treat your health with the same seriousness.
How Can You Avoid Heat Stroke?
By taking a few extra precautions, you can still enjoy the sun. The next time you hit the beach, remember these tips:
- Wear lightweight clothes. Loose, light-colored clothing so you won't absorb so much of the sun's rays.
- Carry an umbrella. Carry an umbrella, or top your outfit with a hat, to protect yourself from the sun's rays.
- Drink up. Bring plenty of water or a sports drink, which can replace sodium lost from sweating.
- Avoid caffeine. Avoid or limit drinks with caffeine or alcohol, as they can cause dehydration. Remember, if your urine is dark yellow, you're probably not drinking enough liquids.
- Plan around peak hours. If you plan to exercise or work in the sun, be sure to do it in the cooler part of the day, before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. Alternately, take it easy on hot days.