By Michele Robertson
Sunshine and summertime, that’s the vibe right now. With the longer days and cool nights, outside is the place to be. While enjoying time outside, there are several safety precautions to consider. Extreme heat can cause damage to our skin and bodies if we do not take the proper actions to protect ourselves. Tereasa Ornelas, RN, BSN shares some tips to stay safe while recreating outdoors during the hot summer months.
According to Ornelas, some ways to stay safe in extreme heat include but are not limited to: drink more water than usual, limit outdoor activities, in particular avoid being outside midday (between the hours of 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.) when it is the hottest part of the day, and the sun's rays are strongest. If possible, try to do outdoor activities early in the morning or in the evening. Try to find shady spots if possible when out in the heat. When doing outdoor activities, pace activities, start slowly and work up as tolerated. Wear loose and light clothing, also choose clothing that is light in color when outside. Keep in mind the humidity outside. Higher humidity causes sweat to evaporate slower which means the body cannot release heat as fast as it needs to. Take cool showers, stay in homes or areas with air conditioning and don’t use the oven/stove during the heat of the day to avoid heating the home up.
Heat illnesses are very real and can happen to anyone. Those most at risk for heat related illness are adults older than 65 and children under 2. Also those with chronic illness or mental illness. Others that also need to be cautious are those that are overweight, have heart disease, poor circulation, athletes, homeless, and those with a history of past heat related illnesses. Some prescription drugs can play a role in whether the body can properly cool off, drinking alcohol can have this effect on the body as well.
There are three specific heat related illnesses that people need to be aware of. The first is heat cramps. Symptoms include: heavy sweating during exercise, muscle pain or spasms usually in the legs, arms, or abdomen. Treatment includes stopping the activity, getting to a cool place, and drinking water or a sports drink. If cramps continue over an hour or you have a history of heart disease, get medical help.
Next is heat exhaustion, symptoms include: heavy sweating, cool, pale, clammy skin, muscle cramps, nausea & vomiting, fast, weak pulse, weakness, dizziness, fainting, headache, thirst, irritability, and quick & shallow breathing. Treatment includes moving to a cool place, loosen clothing, take a cool bath or put cool wet cloths on the body, and sip water. Get immediate medical attention if vomiting, symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke if not treated properly.
The third is heat stroke, symptoms include: body temperature greater than 103° F, losing consciousness, hot, red, dry, skin, headache, dizziness, nausea & vomiting, confusion, seizures, lack of sweating, and muscle twitching. Treatment includes: getting medical help right away by calling 911. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Move the person to a cool location, place wet, cool cloths on the body. Do not give them anything to drink, they are a huge risk to aspirate if they are confused or losing consciousness. Heat stroke can lead to damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, muscles, nervous system, and can lead to death if they do not get the appropriate emergency medical treatment on time.
Ornelas adds the following information to stay safe: hydration is key, water, water, and more water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol when out in the heat as they both have a diuretic effect. When outside in the heat, always carry plenty of water. Sunscreen is important when out in the sun. Apply as often as directed on the sunscreen packaging. Sunburns not only heat up the body and can cause fever, but repeated sun exposures like this also increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Sunglasses and hats should be worn to protect the eyes, face, and head, which can also develop skin cancers with repeated exposures.
“An interesting tidbit, they are starting to notice a trend with seeing more cancerous spots developing on the feet because of people who wear flip flops and we don’t think to put sunscreen on our feet,” said Ornelas.
These tips are good for folks of all ages. Check local weather apps for information on current weather conditions, stay safe out there and remember to #RecreateResponsibly.