Beat the summer heat – AgriLife Extension experts share tips to avoid heat stress, exhaustion, heatstroke
As outside temperatures increase, the possibility of heat stress or even heat stroke also increases. But there are ways to avoid getting “overheated” this summer, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
“Now that summer is near, people are getting out and staying outside longer,” said Mark Faries, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension’s state health specialist with the agency. . Family and Community Health Unit. “But with prolonged exposure to sun and heat, people are at higher risk for heat-related illnesses or hyperthermia.”
Faries said it was especially important to be aware of the symptoms of heat stress when exposed to a higher heat index or heat waves, especially for those who may be at greater risk of illness from in the heat.
“Those most at risk include adults 65 or older, infants, children up to 4-5 years old, and people with medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or heart disease. ‘obesity,’ he said. “However, anyone can succumb to the heat with outdoor activity, and there are additional concerns related to alcohol consumption, low hydration and even medication reactions.”
He said the body naturally heats up during physical activity, but has ways of keeping itself cool. However, in extreme heat, the body heats up faster and sweat evaporation cannot keep up with normal temperature.
“In such cases, heat illness can lead to death,” Faries said. “But because heat illness is progressive, with knowledge of the types, symptoms and treatments of the initial degrees of heat stress, we can detect any risk early.”
Types and Treatments of Heat Stress
According to Centers for Disaster Control and Preventionsymptoms of heat stress may include headache, thirst, general weakness, increased body temperature, dizziness, loss of appetite, excessive sweating, cramps, rapid breathing, and rapid pulse .
Here are some of the symptoms and treatments for different levels of heat stress suggested by the CDC:
– Heat buttons. Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. It appears as a red group of small blisters, usually in the neck, upper chest, or groin area, as well as under the chest, at the waist, and in the elbow creases.
People with rashes should find a cooler, less humid place to treat and keep the rash area as dry as possible. It is a good idea to apply powder to relieve irritation, but it is best to avoid the use of creams or ointments as they moisturize the rash and may delay healing.
– Heat cramps. These usually occur when a person sweats a lot during physical activity, causing muscle pain or spasms. Cramps usually occur in the arms, legs or abdomen.
Sweating reduces the amount of water and electrolytes in the body, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium, so excessive sweating and physical exertion in the heat can lead to those painful muscle cramps.
To treat muscle cramps, the CDC recommends stopping the activity and moving to a cooler location. Drink plenty of water or a sports drink with electrolytes to replace lost fluids, and refrain from other activities until the cramping subsides. If the cramps last longer than an hour or if you are on a low sodium diet or have heart problems, it is best to see a doctor immediately.
– Heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include weakness, excessive sweating, dizziness, headache, nausea, muscle cramps, rapid pulse, and cold, clammy skin.
In more severe cases, heat exhaustion can also cause vomiting or fainting. To treat heat exhaustion, move the person to a cooler area, loosen their clothing, and place a damp cloth or cold compress on key areas of the body, such as the forehead, neck, and armpits. If vomiting or extreme weakness occurs, or if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour, seek medical attention.
– Heatstroke. If a person’s body temperature rises above 103 degrees, it can likely lead to heat stroke.
A person with heatstroke is unable to properly regulate their body temperature because it keeps rising. Curiously, during a heatstroke, the body stops sweating. The pulse also weakens and the skin becomes flushed and red.
“With heat stroke, the individual may also experience an altered mental state, rapid heartbeat, and/or severe nausea or vomiting,” Faries added. “This is a medical emergency and you should call 911 immediately if you or anyone else has any signs of heatstroke.”
However, Faries added, until emergency medical help arrives, the heatstroke victim should be moved to a shaded, cool area and any excess outer clothing removed.
“Cool the individual with cold water or ice,” he said. “Then wet the skin and place cold, damp clothing or compresses over key points, such as the head, neck, armpits and groin. Or soak the person’s clothes with cold water.
However, these treatment suggestions are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, Faries said.
“You should always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare professional if you have any questions regarding a medical condition,” he said.
Tips for staying cool
— Stay well hydrated. According to American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM, dehydration increases the risk of heat exhaustion and is a risk factor for heat stroke. To avoid dehydration, it is important to drink enough water if you go out in the sun, even if you are not particularly thirsty.
Fluids replace body water lost through sweating, and this amount differs from person to person. Experts suggest four to six cups of water a day for generally healthy people, but note that water intake should be individualized and depends on factors such as whether a person plans to be physically active or outdoors on a hot day. Generally, two to three cups of water per hour can help keep you hydrated during hotter or more active times.
“Drink water before, during, and after your physical activity, even if you’re not thirsty,” said Michael Lopez, AgriLife Extension Specialist, Bryan-College Station. “And don’t forget to keep a bottle of water with you if you plan to be outside for an extended period of time.”
— “Be cool” on activity planning. The ACSM also noted that the risk of heat stress and disease is increased when the outdoor temperature is 80 degrees or higher and the humidity is above 75%.
“Plan outdoor activities or runs for mornings or evenings, especially if you expect them to be somewhat strenuous or tiring,” Lopez said. “That could mean outdoor shopping, home projects, yard work or exercise.”
He said it’s always important to continue physical activity, even on hot days, to help maintain the exercise habit.
“People should identify and use cooler times and places for their physical activity, such as an air-conditioned building or a shaded pathway,” Lopez said. “And people who walk as part of their exercise routine may choose to walk indoors on particularly hot days.”
He also suggested asking your health care provider before beginning any physical activity or exercise outside, especially if you have any medical conditions or are taking medications that could impact your body’s response. in the heat.
— Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. “If you don’t have air conditioning, go to the local mall, a public library, or take advantage of indoor events in your community,” Faries said. “Just spending a few hours in the air conditioning can help keep your body cool and help you beat the heat.”
— Eat for warmth. “Eating lighter foods on hot days can keep you from over-boosting your metabolism and keeping you from feeling sluggish,” said Odessa Keenan, AgriLife Extension Wellness Initiatives Coordinator for the agency’s Healthy Texas Program. .
Keenan said summer is a good time to eat lighter foods with good moisture content, like salads and fresh fruit.
“The more food or heavy foods you eat, the harder your body has to work to get rid of any excess calories, and this can be especially taxing on a hot day,” she said.
— Ask about community cooling centers. Many communities, especially large cities, are setting up cooling centers where residents can go to protect themselves from the sun. Television news stations or local newspapers will usually have information about where they will be set up. Additionally, you can call your local health department or dial 311 if this service is available in your area.
— Dress appropriately, use sunscreen and limit your time in the sun. Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and wear loose, light-colored clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and lightweight pants, that will cover potentially exposed skin. Wear a cap or wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and regularly apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Follow all product directions and warnings, including how much and when to apply and reapply.
— If possible, park under a tree or in a shaded area. This is not always possible, but if you can find a shady place to park, it will reduce your vehicle’s exposure to direct sunlight.
“Of course, it’s imperative that you never leave a child or pet in a parked car, especially on a hot day,” said Bev Kellner, AgriLife Extension program manager – passenger safety.
— Check the others. Out of courtesy and concern for others, you may want to check to see if your friends or neighbors are more heat sensitive and at higher risk for heat stress or heat-related illness.
“This is especially true for older people or those you know who have mobility issues,” he said. “And people in low-income areas may not have air conditioning or even a fan,” he said.
Photo: The Gardens on June 8, 2021. (Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communications)
By Paul Schattenberg with AgriLife today.