Although summer officially began less than 2 weeks ago, many parts of our nation already have experienced very hot weather. And in some areas, those temperatures will continue into September. Most of us can’t spend three or four months in air-conditioned comfort, nor would we want to. If you want to work and play outdoors during the summer, you need to learn how to protect yourself in extreme heat.
Getting too hot can make you sick if your body can’t properly cool you off. Heat exposure can even kill you. Every year on average, extreme heat causes 658 deaths in the United States — more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightning combined.
People who are at highest risk for heat-related illness are the elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases. But even young and healthy people can get sick from the heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.
Several factors affect your body’s ability to release heat and cool down:
- High humidity
When the humidity is high, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly, which keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.
- Personal factors
Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use can also affect your body’s ability to cool off enough in very hot weather.
What can you do?
You can take these steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths during hot weather:
- Check the local news for health and safety updates.
- Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location during extremely hot days.
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
- Pace yourself.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
- Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
- Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
- Do not leave children in cars.
Summer presents many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, from swimming to camping to cookouts. If you stay up-to-date with weather reports, pay attention to your body, and follow the tips above, you can have fun outdoors and keep yourself and your family safe from the dangers of extreme heat.