The heat is on. It’s a welcomed time for us in Wyoming; this winter was a long one. We are all ready for some fun in the sun.
But before the water fights begin and the many vacations are underway, let’s take a moment to remember safety first. While winter time presents its own safety challenges and obstacles, summer and the gorgeous rays of sun pose a different set of concerns.
1. Be mindful of fluid intake and loss. Keep fluids with you at all times. By the time you feel thirsty, dehydration has already begun. The body is constantly processing and losing water throughout the day, so it’s important to consume liquid throughout the day rather than guzzle it all at once. Further, the body can only absorb about 8-10 ounces of water every 20 minutes. Keep that in mind as you’re out in the sun.
2. Wear sunscreen. Wearing sunscreen is always a wise practice. Make sure children are adequately covered for their time in the sun.
3. Carry a first aid kit. Whether you are at home, out and about at the local parks and pool, or on the road, keep a first aid kit within reach and fully stocked.
4. Dress appropriately. If you plan on being active outside for any period of time, wear clothing that wicks away sweat from the body. Try dressing in lighter weight and light-colored clothing that is somewhat loose fitting. Research options for UV protective clothing and rash guards for the little ones.
5. Watch the weather. Be sure to watch the forecast and plan outings or events for earlier in the morning or later in the evening and avoid the peak temperatures in the middle of the day.
In addition to being aware of these five keys, it’s also critically important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat illness — heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Knowing this information can save your life.
Heat exhaustion is the most common heat-related illness and is generally caused by intense activity in hot and/or humid climates.
Signs and symptoms include a weak, rapid pulse, low blood pressure, fatigue, headache/dizziness, nausea and/or vomiting, weakness, pale/cold/clammy skin, profuse sweating, and elevated body temperature (equal to or greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit). If heat exhaustion is suspected, stop the activity and move to a cool, well-ventilated space. Lay down and elevate the feet (about 12-18 inches will suffice). Rehydrate and keep an eye on body temperature.
Unlike heat exhaustion, heat stroke is more serious and requires emergency treatment. When heat stroke sets in, the body’s ability to dissipate heat is severely compromised.
Signs and symptoms include hot, dry skin that appears bright red, strong, rapid pulse, mood changes (irritability, aggressive behavior, etc.), trouble breathing, and elevated body temperature (equal to or greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit).
To address this condition, stop the activity, remove as much clothing as possible, and work to cool the body immediately. Provide fluids and get the victim to the emergency room.
Dr. Erin Nitschke is a health and human performance educator, NSCA Certified Personal Trainer, and ACE Health Coach & Fitness Nutrition Specialist. To contact Nitschke, email firstname.lastname@example.org.