A man cooling off during the summer.
Healthy Living

Planning Ahead and Staying Safe in the Summer Heat

Jul 29 2021
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The summer heat can be felt along the East Coast with temperatures setting record highs! With the heat index being forecasted greater than 90 for many areas, our team at Bon Secours wants to make sure you are safe and healthy when you must be outside.

Planning ahead is the key to avoiding heat-related illness.

Be sure to follow these prevention tips:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • If possible, try to avoid direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing
  • Slow down and stay indoors
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who may be at risk for heat-related illness
  • Don’t forget pets and make sure they have plenty of cool water
  • If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, go to a cooler location such as a library, mall or movie theater

The first signs of dangerous heat-related illness are often a headache, flushed skin, nausea, vomiting and an altered mental state. As the temperature rises, your body’s natural cooling mechanism, sweating, evaporates and helps to cool your body. But on those really hot, humid days, evaporation of sweat slows and your body runs a higher risk of heat-related illness, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is a precursor to heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Pale skin
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid pulse or fast, shallow breathing
  • Muscle weakness or cramps

If you or someone near you is experiencing these symptoms, take the following steps:

  • Move to a cool location
  • Lie down and loosen clothing
  • Apply cold, wet cloths
  • Sip water or other fluids with salt or sugar
  • Do NOT drink caffeine or alcohol
  • If you or the individual has vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately. Also, if you don’t feel better within 30 minutes, seek medical help.

Heat exhaustion is a precursor to heat stroke. This means that heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke if not treated.

These more dangerous warning signs can indicate heat stroke is imminent:

  • Skin that feels hot and dry
  • Confusion or loss of consciousness
  • Throbbing headache
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Trouble breathing

Heat stroke is an emergency. If you think someone is experiencing symptoms, take immediate action:

  • Seek medical attention and dial 9-1-1
  • Move them to a cool location
  • Reduce their body temperature with a cool bath or cloths
  • Do not give them any more fluids

Most healthy people can tolerate heat exposure using prevention methods. However, people with damaged or weakened hearts, the elderly and those who are overweight can have a much harder time coping physically with heat and need to take precautions against heat-related illness.

These high-risk categories include:

  • Having previously had a heart attack. Damage from a heart attack can keep the heart from pumping enough blood to get rid of heat.
  • High cholesterol/arterial disease. Cholesterol-narrowed arteries can limit blood flow to the skin.
  • Stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes. These and other conditions can dull the brain’s response to dehydration, so it may fail to send thirst signals.
  • Atrial fibrillation. The main concern for atrial fibrillation in high heat is dehydration, which can trigger an arrhythmia. It can also raise the risk of stroke and heart failure.
  • Medications. Certain medications, like beta blockers, ACE receptor blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics can exaggerate the body’s response to heat.

It’s best to consult with your primary care provider about how to stay healthy and safe in high heat. Find a Bon Secours provider near you today.


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