With temperatures expected to hover within the low- to mid-80s this week, health officials are reminding residents to stay safe and practice common sense to avoid heat-related accidents. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating, but under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough.
When the temperature rises, you will need to increase your fluid intake regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty before you drink, and don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar because these will actually cause you to lose more body fluid than you gain.
If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the sale and minerals lost via sweating, but those on a low-salt diet should speak with their doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.
Wear appropriate clothing and, when outside, use sunscreen to avoid sunburn, which affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
For those who insist on being outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours, resting often in shady areas so your body has a chance to cool off. If working in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you having trouble breathing, stop all activity and move into a cool area.
While anyone can suffer from heat-related illness at any time, some people are more at risk than others, particularly infants, young children, and the elderly. Infants and young children are sensitive to high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and ensure they have enough liquids, while the elderly may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to change in temperature.
Do not leave children or pets in cars, even if the windows are cracked open! Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets and leave the water in a shady area.
By following these tips and practicing common sense, you can avoid heat-related illnesses and keep others safe as well.