Be safe when out in the heat

Published 2:51 pm Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The heat of summer is upon us and it is extremely important for everyone to take certain precautions when working outside in the sun. According to the CDC, heat-related deaths caused 8,015 deaths in the United States between 1979-2003. During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

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. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

To protect your health when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense. The following tips are important:

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Drink plenty of fluids: During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.

Replace salt and minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.

Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen: Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.

Schedule outdoor activities carefully: If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

Stay cool indoors: Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library-even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.

Monitor those at high risk: Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others, such as infants and children, people over the age of 65, those overweight, or those physically ill.

Adjust to the environment: Be aware that any sudden change in temperature, such as an early summer heat wave, will be stressful to your body.

Do not leave children in cars: Even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. Even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes.