The dog days of summer: How heat illness might affect you


Whether you enjoy throwing your line in the water, hitting the biking/running trails, catching up on some much needed yardwork, or grabbing your mitt to compete in America’s favorite pastime, there are some things we all need to be aware of for summer. Heat illness is one of them.

Heat illness is prevalent this time of year. According to the CDC, climate change and extreme heat causes more deaths each year than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods combined. That is why it is extremely beneficial for us to know some of the signs and symptoms of various heat related illnesses, as well as management strategies and tips for preventing heat illnesses from happening so we can all enjoy summer a little safer.

Signs & Symptoms

When our body can’t cool itself, heat illnesses can occur. On hot, humid days, our sweat is more challenged to evaporate and dissipate the heat so our normal body processes can function optimally. Three common types of heat illness include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Heat cramps usually result from overexertion and excessive loss of water and electrolytes resulting in painful muscle spasms. To help manage heat cramps, drink plenty of water, gently stretch the muscle as tolerated, and find a cool area to ice the muscle as well.

Heat exhaustion is caused by inadequate replacement of lost fluid through sweating and presentation often includes disorientation, profuse sweating, pale skin, dizziness, and a rapid pulse. Individuals suffering from heat exhaustion need a cool environment where they can ingest plenty of water and occasionally may need an IV for fluid loss.

Heat stroke, on the other hand, is a very serious and potentially life threatening condition. It usually comes on very suddenly and cause people to collapse with loss of consciousness. Signs include flushed and hot skin, decreased sweating compared to heat exhaustion, shallow breathing, headache, and very high body temperatures. These individuals should receive medical attention as soon as possible.

Prevention Tips

Here are some helpful tips to prevent heat illnesses from you and your family this summer:
• Drink plenty of fluids (High quality H2O is best), and don’t wait until you are thirsty
• Gradually acclimate to the environment and take rest breaks in shady areas
• Wear lightweight, loose fitting, and light colored clothing when possible
• Avoid high temp times of the day (usually from 11-5) and check weather alerts
• Avoid highly caffeinated beverages and alcohol
Don’t be afraid of the hot weather! Throw down your cell phones, Netflix, and video games and be active in the great outdoors! Enjoy yourself and be safe and conscious about your environment.