How to avoid heat exhaustion during heat waves

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Nice weather oftentimes has us outside. We want to get out and move, do some gardening, maybe get some exercise outside. However, when temperatures start to rise into the 80s and 90s with high humidity, it can be difficult to not only stay comfortable, but to stay safe outside.

Recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion is important. Preventing it in the first place is even more important. Let’s take a look at both:

Preventing heat exhaustion

1. Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing

If you’re planning on running a marathon or walking a long distance in the sun during the heat, don’t wear skin-tight clothing and skinny jeans. Wear something loose and breathable like a loose fitting white t-shirt. Dark clothing attracts and absorbs sunlight, so avoid wearing black or excessively dark colors.

2. Drink lots of fluid

And we don’t mean coffee! Caffeinated drinks may taste good, but caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it will help you expel water from your body rather than retain that precious resource you may need in a time like a hot run. Go for water and sports drinks. The first sign of dehydration is being thirsty, so make sure you quench that thirst!

3. Avoid hot spots & seek cooler areas

If possible, avoid direct sunlight and look for shady, cool areas. Being in air conditioning for a short period of time can help to prevent heat exhaustion. It may seem like a no brainer, but don’t sit in an enclosed car, truck, or otherwise for an extended period of time. Make sure you air out your car before you start driving.

4. Avoid sunburn

We know that you’ve been told to wear sunscreen, but the importance of wearing it can’t be stressed enough. Sunburn can turn to sun poisoning, and you may not realize when you’re on the road to heat exhaustion. Wearing a wide brimmed hat can help, too.

Heat exhaustion can have a range of symptoms that sometimes, if mild, can be easily reversed, but if left untreated too long can cause permanent damage. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion are:

  • Faintness, dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weak pulse
  • Pale face or even flushed face
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Severe sweating with cold, clammy skin

If you or someone you know may be suffering from the start of heat exhaustion symptoms, you’ll want to move yourself or the person to a cool area (preferably air conditioned) and lay down. Remove any tight, heavy, or excess clothing. Spray the person with water and attempt to cool them down by letting them drink cool water or a non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drink. Fainting, seizures, fever, and confusion will require medical assistance – immediately dial 911.

An ounce of prevention goes a long way. Make sure you stay cool during this heat wave and many to come!