Heat Safety: If You Can’t Stand the Heat…
While Vermont isn’t known for its heat, we all know that once it hits 90 degrees for a few days, it gets oppressive! And, we all know it’s not a dry heat. Once the high temperatures combine with high humidity you have the recipe for uncomfortable conditions. We value our summers here in Vermont, and we’ve paid our dues to enjoy our outdoor time!
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Stay hydrated! Water is great, and should be your go-to drink, but consider replacing electrolytes with a sports drink in between each water break to recharge what the body is losing through sweat.
- Comfortable, loose-fitting clothing allows the body to release heat.
- Consider exercising in the earlier or later parts of the day when it is cooler.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.
- Stop and rest when you need to. Signs of overdoing it are dizziness, nausea/vomiting, cramping. These are signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke which can be life threatening (pretty much the opposite of why you were exercising in the first place!)
Outdoor workers are often subjected to the same situations as above, perhaps without the luxury of being able to avoid the worst of our environmental conditions.
Folks with medical issues tend to be more sensitive to the high heat and humidity. Breathing and cardiac problems are usually worsened with these stressors, so here are some things to consider:
- Have an air conditioner handy. Even if the whole living space is not feasible, perhaps one room could be cooled sufficiently to improve air quality and comfort.
- Malls, libraries and other public places are cool and open to the public.
- Avoid skipping meals. It’s better to eat smaller, more frequent snacks.
- Run errands in the earlier, cooler parts of the day. Stock up on supplies before the high heat hits (medications, food, & drinks)
- Limit exertion to what is tolerated.
- Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
- Cool showers or baths are refreshing.
- Use caution with caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, while refreshing, they worsen dehydration.
Kids count, too. Kids play hard, and need to be reminded to take water breaks. Parents and coaches need to provide frequent water/sports drinks and breaks so that the kids can enjoy the activities they are participating in. Signs of dehydration include irritability, headaches which ruins anyone’s day. It’s usually cooler at the water, so a trip to the beach might be in order. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
Pets overheat, too! We all know that they cannot be left in a car. Pets need shelter from the heat. Ensure that pets have fresh water and access to share. Try to visit the dog park first thing in the morning while it is still cool, or visit on a cooler dat. A dip in the lake is fine if you find a dog-friendly location, but be sure to watch for algae blooms that frequently cause problems later in the summer.
Kathryn Gutierrez is a care coordinator in the Emergency Department at Fletcher Allen Health Care.