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More than 125 million Americans in the central and eastern states have experienced heat alerts (heat advisories and excessive heat warnings) over the past week. As heat waves sweep the country, take the time to learn how to keep cool during the summer and avoid heat-related illnesses.
The summer of 2022 expects hotter than average temperatures, especially in the Rockies and Plains in the American Midwest. These high temperatures won’t just affect those susceptible to heat-related illnesses; everyone who is outside for an extended period is at risk for these illnesses.
Exposure to excessive heat jeopardizes the body’s ability to regulate temperature and may cause a variety of illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke, and hyperthermia. These risks are heightened in humid environments. Evaporation is the process that cools your body. When the air is humid, your sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly and your body can’t release heat at the rate it may need, resulting in a heat illness.
Identifying the signs of heat exhaustion is essential to preventing further heat-related illness. Typically, the effects of heat exhaustion are not too severe if you can cool down within 30 minutes. If the heat exhaustion symptoms continue, it could turn into heatstroke, which should be treated as an emergency. Try to recognize these signs of heat exhaustion:
While recognition is important, don’t wait until you start feeling these symptoms to take cooling measures. Follow these tips to beat the heat this summer:
Staying hydrated is one of the most important steps in preventing heat illness. Even if you're not thirsty or you haven’t done anything strenuous that day, you should still drink water- preferably with added electrolytes. Avoid drinks with sugar or alcohol as they can make you lose more body fluids.
While wearing sweatshirts may seem an obvious way to trap heat, dark-colored clothing also has the same effect. Dark colors don’t reflect the sun the same way that light colors do and attract more UV, trapping the heat close to your body and increasing the risk of heat exhaustion. Try choosing more loose-fitting, lightweight, lightly-colored clothes if you spend time outdoors.
According to the CDC, staying in air-conditioned buildings is the number one way to avoid heat-related illness. The hottest time of day is typically around 3:00 p.m., so consider taking a short hour-to-two-hour break during that time. That time will allow your body to cool off and better prepare it for returning to the heat. If your home doesn’t have air-conditioning, go to public facilities that do.
4. Take a cold shower or bath
Portable fans are a popular accessory for people to use at outdoor sporting games to keep themselves cool, but you shouldn’t rely on them because they don’t actively prevent heat illness. Instead, take a cold shower or bath. This is especially helpful if you don’t have air conditioning.
Sunburn can make you dehydrated and affect your body’s ability to cool down. The CDC recommends applying a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before sun exposure and wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your skin.
Keep track of the high and low temperatures throughout the day as well as any heat advisories that may be put in place in your area. If it is predicted to get into the 90s, plan your day carefully and limit your time outside, especially at midday.
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