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400 Health: Stay healthy in the summer heat
Summer

Many of us look forward to the warmer months, especially since we live in such a beautiful area. There is an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy, whether it’s hiking, getting on the lake, or even biking. People from all over the state love to head to our areas to get outdoors.

Sudie Crouch
But, with that fun comes some cautions. We know here in Georgia, the heat can be brutal at times. When we’re having fun, especially around water, we may not recognize that we are overheating our bodies.

Overheating our bodies is just one issue, but there are other risks involved including dehydration, sunburn, and even heat stroke. And with the heat, we don’t have to be necessarily doing something strenuous to experience them; sometimes, just doing yard work in extreme heat can cause some significant complications.

 

Dehydration

Staying hydrated is helpful on normal days as we require adequate water intake for so many of our important bodily functions, but we may need even more to stay properly hydrated when the temps are hotter. 

Children and the elderly may find themselves, particularly at risk for getting dehydrated. Some signs to look out for include: fatigue, lightheadedness, flushing of skin, dry tongue/mouth, and dark-colored urine. 

Thankfully, dehydration can be prevented, and can be corrected rather easily, if caught in time; otherwise, being dehydrated can be serious enough to require going to the hospital to receive fluids.

You can prevent it by making sure you’re drinking enough water, rather than other fluids like caffeine (which can further dehydrate) or soft drinks.

According to the CDC, drinking 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes can help keep you hydrated when the temps are hotter. (Of course, if your medical professional has advised you to limit fluids, please check with them.) While this may feel like a lot of water, there are other ways to stay hydrated.

Eating more water-rich fruits, like watermelon, pineapple, and cantaloupe can be good choices. Making water infusions with fruit, too, can help you have a more flavorful option. Add some cucumber slices, strawberries, and fresh mint to a pitcher and fill with water and keep in the fridge to give you a refreshing treat.

 

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Heat


Sunburn

Summer can almost be synonymous with sunburn, and most of us have had at least one severe sunburn in our lifetime. While the sun is a natural source of vitamin D, too much of a good thing can be damaging to our skin and burns can also increase our risk of skin cancer. 

Trying to avoid direct exposure to the sun during the mid-day hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. can be one way to help minimize the risk of not just sunburn but heat, and shielding yourself with light-colored clothing or a hat can help, too. 

There have been a lot of concerns recently about the ingredients in sunscreen; since anything applied topically can be absorbed through our skin, we want to make sure it is safe. A website, ewg.org, allows you to search your sunscreen to see if it is safe or not.

If you do happen to get a sunburn even after taking precautions, you can maybe lessen the pain and duration of it by following these steps. Circling back to the above-mentioned tip, stay hydrated. You may need to take some over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or naproxen, as the sunburn causes inflammation. Keeping your skin cool, with cold compresses can help, as can applying aloe.

 

Heat stroke

Perhaps the most serious heat-related concern is a heat stroke. A heat stroke is caused by the body’s inability to cool itself down properly. It can also come on suddenly and without a lot of exposure to heat, as it has to do with the body’s ability to cool itself. 

Your body temperature reaches 104 and is unable to come back down. It can be due to physical exertion in the heat (think of athletes practicing in the heat, construction workers, etc.) or it can be due to age or other health issues. It’s definitely something to take seriously, as it can lead to serious complications, including death.

In addition to being unable to bring your body temp down, some other symptoms to look for include: dizziness, changes in blood pressure, fainting, confusion, and rapid breathing with increased heart rate.

Staying hydrated and out of the sun may be steps to prevent it, but a heat stroke can sometimes even come on later, as the impact may take a while for your body to process. It would be definitely recommended to go to the hospital if you think you are having a heat stroke.

Being aware of how you’re feeling when you’re out in the heat can help you gauge how your body’s responding. In doing so, you can stay hydrated, aware of the time you’re exposing yourself in the sun, and being mindful of whether or not your body is getting overheated. 

And, even though we often enjoy having cocktails while on the lake or sitting by the pool, it may dehydrate us and make us less cognizant of how we’re feeling while out in the heat.

Hopefully these tips can help you enjoy the summer to the fullest, with none of the unpleasantries!

Sudie Crouch is a health & wellness coach, helping clients create healthy, attainable changes using positive psychology and cognitive behavior approaches.