When we think of summer, we think of outdoor BBQs, days at the beach, hiking and biking our way through the forest or just lounging by the pool. Honestly, these are what you should be thinking about…but you should make sure you do it safely. Our summers are short, but no less hot. 90+ degree days are becoming more normal for our area, and so are heat related injuries.
Let’s review the warning signs that you may be getting a little too much of that summer sun starting with the least concerning manifestations to the most concerning. So, while not life threatening, but a little unsightly and sometimes itchy, we have heat rash. Unless you’ve lived your life in an air-conditioned bubble, you have likely experienced this red, bumpy, itchy rash in the creases of your elbows, chest, or neck. Caused by sweat glands getting blocked, it will resolve on its own if allowed to cool down and dry off.
If you are an endurance trainer or extreme athlete (or you just play hard), you may leave yourself vulnerable to heat related muscle spasms during the summertime. They are what they sound like, muscle cramps and pain brought on by strenuous exercise and excessive sweating. The best thing you can do if you are experiencing cramps is to stop the activity and get someplace cool. Re-hydrate and rest until they subside. If cramps are persisting for more than an hour, or if you have underlying health conditions, you should see your healthcare provider or an urgent care as it could be something a little more serious, such as heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion is a more serious consequence of overheating. It comes with a constellation of symptoms consisting of muscle cramps, fainting, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and skin that feels cool and clammy to the touch. This can be immediate or come on hours after heat exposure. Should you find yourself suffering with these symptoms, get to a cool area. Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cold bath. Sip water. Make sure you seek medical attention if your symptoms last longer than an hour or if your existing symptoms worsen.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous of the heat related illnesses. With heatstroke, a person will experience high temperatures (103 or greater), hot, dry (or damp), red skin, dizziness, nausea, confusion, fast strong pulse and loss of consciousness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If you see someone suffering with these symptoms, move them to a cool place, place cool cloths or use a cool bath to lower temp and call 911.
Tips to stay safe in the summer heat are making sure you are hydrated, wearing loose/light colored/light weight clothing, and avoid cooking with the oven if possible. Don’t rely on a fan to help cool you off on really hot days – it won’t- have an air-conditioned place you can go if necessary, to cool down. And finally, check on your neighbors and those with limitation issues- they may not have the ability to get to a cooler area and may not feel comfortable asking.
-Brooke Rieth NP