During the warm summer months, it's crucial to take simple steps to protect against a variety of heat-related illnesses.
“It’s important to stop heat-related illness before it progresses to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening,” said Dr. Jeffrey Rabrich, medical director of Emergency Medicine at Montefiore Nyack Hospital. “With heat-related illness, the thing to watch out for is the heat index, which measures the combination of heat and humidity."
Heat-related illness can start with heat exhaustion, which can cause muscle cramps, feeling lightheaded, nausea, headaches and a general sense of fatigue. “If you feel any of these signs, go inside to an air-conditioned environment if you can, or at least get out of the sun into the shade,” said Rabrich.
Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking plenty of fluids will keep the body hydrated and ward off heat-related illness. Water is the best beverage for hot weather, and it's important not to wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
The best way to monitor hydration is to check urine color. “The lighter it is, the more hydrated you are,” said Rabrich. Wearing loose, light-colored, lightweight clothing and a hat, and avoiding the outdoors during the hottest part of the day can also help prevent heat-related illness.
In addition to causing heat-related illness, spending too much time in the sun can lead to a sunburn. This can damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. To protect the skin from the sun, stay in the shade as much as possible, especially during midday hours. Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck and wear wraparound sunglasses.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a sunscreen that is labeled “broad spectrum,” meaning it protects skin from both types of harmful ultraviolet rays – UVA and UVB. And selecting a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher will provide the best protection.
Other Common Summer Health Issues
Food poisoning: Food left outside can go bad quickly, especially if it contains mayonnaise, such as potato or macaroni salad. This is because warmer temperatures cause food-borne bacteria to grow. That's why it's important not to eat food that’s been left out for several hours.
Sprains and strains: People who have been inactive during the cooler weather may overexert themselves once they start summer exercise. “My advice is if you’ve been inactive, increase your activity gradually,” said Rabrich. “Your muscles and joints will thank you.”
For more information on how to stay safe this summer, click here.