Stop Heat-Related Illnesses

We are all glad that summer is here, with longer days and more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.  However, with rising temperatures comes higher risks for heat-related illnesses, especially for us New Englanders who are not accustomed to hot and humid weather year-round.

Additionally, children, pregnant women, and those with chronic diseases are more susceptible to developing serious health-related problems in the heat.  Such heat-related illnesses include muscle cramps, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and, most dangerously of all, heat stroke.

In all of these situations, the body loses the ability to cool itself and heat builds up excessively, causing damage to your body internally.  When it is hot and humid outside, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that you follow some simple but important rules:

  1. Keep Cool
    1. If you have air conditioning, use it.
    2. Keep windows and shades closed during day, especially on southern exposure of your location.
    3. Keep your windows and shades open at night to let cool air in.
    4. Wear loose and light-colored clothing during the day.
    5. Stay out of the sun if you can, especially between 10 AM and 2 PM on hot days.
    6. Take cool showers or baths.
    7.  In hot weather, never sit in a parked car or leave any other person or animal in there, even for a short period of time.  Doing so can truly be fatal.  If you or someone else must sit in your car, be sure to leave a window open before driving again.
  2. Drink More Fluids
    1. Drink a greater volume of fluids than you would normally drink, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
    2. Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, as they will dehydrate your body.
    3. Even if you are on diuretic medication (i.e. water pills), you will need to drink even more fluids in hot weather.
  3. Give Yourself A Break
    1. Avoid putting yourself through strenuous activity in the heat, including high-intensity exercise.
    2. If you absolutely need to be active in the heat, be sure to take frequent breaks, especially to give yourself time to hydrate.
    3. Rest in a cooler environment such as the shade if you are outside, or, if you can, in an air-conditioned space inside.

Last but not least, as I always remind my readers and patients, protect yourself from the sun and the heat by wearing sunscreen with a broad spectrum designation (blocking UVA and UVB rays) and with an SPF of at least 30. Enjoy the beautiful summer weather while we have it, but please also make sure you take care of yourself and stay safe.

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