Western New York may be known for its epic winter storms, but the summer heat can be just as dangerous. As we reach the peak of hot summer months, it’s important to understand the dangers of such heat-related conditions as sun poisoning, sunstroke, and dehydration. Learn the risks associated with these conditions, and how you can protect yourself and your family while enjoying the final days of summer.
The Threat of Heat-Related Illnesses
Heat-related illnesses pose a threat to adults, seniors, and children any time you’re exposed to abnormal or prolonged amounts of heat and humidity without adequate fluid intake or relief. If not properly treated, heat-related illnesses can cause serious health complications, and in the most devastating cases, even death.
Dehydration can occur when your body doesn’t have enough water. Without proper hydration, your body can not properly function. On hot summer days, you lose more water than usual from sweating, especially if active. If the fluids you lose are not properly replaced by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water, you place yourself at risk of dehydration.
Symptoms of mild dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, only urinating a small amount, urine that is a dark yellow color, headache, and muscle cramps. Symptoms of more severe dehydration may include no urination at all, very dry skin, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fatigue, and fainting.
If you believe you may have mild to moderate dehydration, stop any activity and rest. If you’re outside, seek shade or a cool, air conditioned area. Remove excess layers of clothes, prop up your feet, and drink a rehydration drink such as water, juice, or a sports drink to replace fluids. Prevent dehydration before symptoms occur by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after any activity or long-term heat and sun exposure.
Sun poisoning is an extreme case of sunburn. Symptoms initially appear the same as a sunburn, but can escalate quickly to include swelling, large blisters, headache, fever, dizziness, nausea, dehydration, and fainting. Individuals with pale skin, especially redheads, are particularly susceptible to sun poisoning in summer months. To avoid sun poisoning, wear protective clothing. Apply and reapply an SPF of at least 15 or 30 throughout the day, seek shade, and avoid being exposed to the sun during the hottest parts of the day.
If you believe you may have a serious case of sun poisoning, seek medical attention promptly. If you feel your symptoms are less severe, you can consider taking ibuprofen to ease the pain, applying cold compresses made of equal parts milk and water to damaged areas, and most importantly, hydrating.
Also often referred to as heat stroke, this heat-related condition is the most severe heat-related illness. When your body’s heat-regulating system is overwhelmed by excessive heat, it poses a life-threatening emergency. Immediate medical care should be obtained. Symptoms of sun stroke include warm and dry skin, a high fever (typically over 104 degrees), rapid heart rate, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and headache.
If you believe you may be experiencing sun stroke, call for emergency medical care. If you cannot call for assistance promptly, move to a cool place to rest. Remove excess clothing, drench your skin with cool water, and fan your skin. If you have ice available, place ice bags in your armpit and groin areas. Also, be sure to drink cool fluids.
To avoid sun stroke, stay protected from the sun, wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses, and seek shade when outdoors. Dress in lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothing. While being active outdoors, take frequent breaks, hydrate frequently, and cool skin with cold water.
While we all want to maximize our enjoyment of warm summer days, it’s important to not spend too much time outside in the sun and heat, especially if you’re being active. Make sure to stay hydrated, avoid being outside during peak sun and heat hours, wear appropriate clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, and seek shade whenever possible. By following these tips, you can enjoy summer days, without the risk of illness. If you have any questions or concerns about heat-related illnesses, and your risks, talk to your doctor.More