Staying safe under the summer sun
As seasonal temperatures rise, so do heat-related health risks. So to stay safe and enjoy summer, take the following steps to prevent heat-related illnesses.
During winter, when the thermometer plunges below zero, who hasn’t dreamed of basking in summer heat? But as seasonal temperatures rise, so do heat-related health risks.
Luckily, you don’t have to hide from the sun. You can stay safe and enjoy summer by paying attention to heat and humidity and recognizing danger signs.
Overheating equals trouble
Heat-related illnesses occur when your body heats up faster than it can cool itself. According to the Office of Occupational Health and Safety at the University of Windsor, when your internal temperature rises above 38 C (100.4 F), your brain begins to overheat. Your body’s cooling system shuts down, sweating stops, and your internal temperature climbs rapidly. Symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, and muscle cramps are your body’s way of telling you it’s in trouble. It’s important to listen.
Working or playing in high heat and humidity is a common cause of heat stress. But overheating can also occur in small, enclosed areas such as cars, tents, or hot tubs.
Know your risks
The youngest and oldest among us are most vulnerable. Infants and children up to age four are extremely sensitive to high temperature and depend on you to keep them cool and hydrated. The elderly are less likely to sense temperature change and may not recognize heat-related problems in time to relieve their symptoms.
Heat-related illnesses can strike anyone regardless of age or physical condition. So be careful, particularly at the beginning of summer when you haven’t yet had a chance to become acclimatized to the warmer weather.
There are many more factors that increase the risk of heat-related illness:
You can’t control the temperature, but you can control your environment and your actions. Firstly, it’s wise to check with your health practitioner if you take medication, in case it makes you more vulnerable to the heat.
Here are some other easy measures you can take that may mean the difference between enjoying summer’s heat and collapsing from it.
Dress for heat
Seek cooler climes
Make friends with fluids
Keep an eye on others
Causes: excessive sweating depletes your body of salt. Heat cramps can occur when you drink too much water without sufficient salt replacement.
Treatment: move to a cool area. Massage and stretch the muscle. Provide sips of cool, salted water—1/4 to 1/2 tsp (1 to 2 mL) salt to 4 cups (1 L) water—or an electrolyte-replacement drink. If cramps continue for more than an hour, consult a health practitioner.
Symptoms: heavy sweating, cool skin, thirst, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, weak pulse, rapid breathing, body temperature over 38 C (100.4 F), blurred vision.
Cause: fluid loss combined with inadequate water and salt replacement causes your body’s cooling system to break down, resulting in a rapid rise in
Treatment: move to a cool area. Loosen or remove excess clothing, and give cool, salted water. To dissipate body heat, mist with cool water, then fan. If symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention.
Symptoms: hot, dry, red skin; severe headache; nausea; confusion or odd behaviour; body temperature above 41 C (105.8 F); fast pulse; loss of consciousness; convulsions.
Cause: the body has lost its water and salt reserves and is unable to regulate internal temperature. It can develop suddenly or follow heat exhaustion.
Treatment: while waiting for medical help, cool the person rapidly by fanning, spraying with cool water, or covering with wet compresses. If conscious, give sips of cool water. Do not immerse the person in cold water, as overcooling restricts blood flow and interferes with brain function.