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The Heat is On: How to Stay Cool and Spurn the Burn
July 19, 2021
by Lisa Wilson, MD
When the sun comes out to play, many of us make plans to do the same. The summer months bring the promise of backyard barbecues, pick-up games in the park and wasting away lazy afternoons in the water. This year’s summer season feels extra special as COVID-19 vaccines have paved a way for us to once again gather together safely.
Summer also brings the heat – a potential threat to health that we should all stay alert to preventing and treating. Heat-related illness can take on several different forms, from heat rash, sunburn and heat cramps, to even more serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses like heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Heat-related illnesses can strike when the body can’t properly cool itself through normal methods like sweating, and some heat-related illnesses can cause damage to essential organs, including the brain, and even be fatal.
Those who are most at risk for developing heat-related illness include senior adults, infants and children, those with chronic health conditions, athletes and outdoor workers. That doesn’t let everyone else off the hook, however. Heat-related illness can affect anyone, and additional factors can come into play, including high levels of humidity, obesity, prescription drug use, alcohol use and more. That’s why it’s important to know the different types of heat-related illnesses, how to prevent them, what to look out for and what to do if illness strikes.
Preventing Heat-Related Illness
The good news is that heat-related illnesses are preventable and there are some basic tips to remember to help protect yourself and others, including:
Wearing light, loose-fitting clothes
Staying cool with air conditioning, and cool showers and baths
Limiting outdoor activities to cooler times in the morning and evening
Pacing yourself when it comes to outdoor activity and exercise
Never leaving infants, children or pets in parked cars (even if the windows are cracked open)
Avoiding hot, heavy foods and
Staying hydrated with plenty of water (and keeping your pets hydrated, too!)