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It's Gonna Be Hot Tomorrow! Here Are Heat Tips

Heat tips from Kaiser Permanente.

By: David Danzeisen, MD, Kaiser Permanente Fairfield Medical Offices  

Summer is upon us. As temperatures rise, more people will head outdoors to enjoy the sun and activities, such as sporting events, barbeques, cycling, hiking, and family outings to the park. As schools close for summer, more children also will be riding their bikes, skateboarding, and playing outside.

But before you or your family members rush outside to enjoy the sun, it is important to take precautions against heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. This is especially true in extreme heat over 100 degrees.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can generally occur when someone is working or exercising in hot weather, sweats a lot, and does not drink enough liquids to replace lost fluids. Symptoms can include fatigue, weakness, headache, dizziness, nausea, skin that is pale, cool, and moist, and occasionally fainting.

Mild cases can be treated at home, but moderate to severe heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which requires emergency treatment.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when a person is exposed to a hot environment and the body is unable to cool itself effectively. Symptoms include mental changes (such as confusion, delirium, or unconsciousness), and skin that is red, hot, and dry (even under the armpits) because the person has stopped sweating.

There are two types of heat stroke. Classic heat stroke can develop without exertion over several days. Babies, older adults, and people with chronic health problems, have the greatest risk for this type of heat stroke.

Heat stroke also can develop when a person is working or exercising in a hot environment. A person with heat stroke from exertion may sweat profusely but the body still produces more heat than it can lose that causes the body’s temperature to rise to high levels.

Both types of heat stroke cause severe dehydration and can cause body organs to stop functioning. Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency and requires emergency medical treatment.

When you’re enjoying outdoor activities, keep in mind these tips to help prevent heat-related illnesses: 

  • Acclimate to the heat by gradually increasing your exposure to physical activity in the heat – it may take 10 to 14 days to become acclimated to the heat.
  • Remain well-hydrated by drinking eight fluid ounces of water before becoming active in the heat.
  • Continue to drink moderate amounts of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during the activity.
  • Wear clothing that is light-colored, lightweight, single-layered, and absorbent, allowing evaporation of body sweat.
  • Limit sun exposure during midday hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and in places of potential severe exposure, such as beaches or other areas lacking adequate shade.
  • As a precaution, avoid exercising at all if the temperature is in the 90s or it is humid.

 

Follow these tips to keep infants and children safe from heat-related illnesses:

  • Never leave infants or children in a parked car.
  • Dress infants and children in cool, loose clothing and shade their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella.
  • Watch babies and small children closely for early symptoms of dehydration, including a dry mouth and sticky saliva, reduced urination with dark yellow urine, and acting listless or easily irritated.

 

Air-conditioning is the best way to protect against heat-related illness. If your home is not air-conditioned, you can reduce your risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air conditioned.

As a reminder, call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you have stopped sweating or have other signs of heat stroke, such as a fast heart rate, dizziness, confusion, high body temperature, or extreme lethargy.

For more information about ways to stay healthy all year long, visit kp.org.

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