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6 ways to stay safe in the summer heat

Terry Moy-Brown, DO

Hot summer temperatures can increase the risk of heat exhaustion—a serious medical condition that occurs when your body is either low on water or sodium. Whether you’re running a marathon, gardening, or working at a job that requires you to be outdoors, extra heat requires additional precautions. Here’s what you can do to keep yourself and others safe:

Tip 1: Drink up. Drink lots of water—at least two to four 8-ounce glasses every hour—even if you’re not particularly thirsty. If you’re exercising, consider replacing some of the electrolytes you’re losing by alternating with a sports drink. Of course, ask your doctor what’s right for you.

Tip 2: Watch what you drink. Alcohol and caffeine can further dehydrate you, so relax with a glass of water and your beverage of choice.

Tip 3: Avoid the hottest part of the day. If you need to be outside, try picking a cooler time. Spreading beauty bark in the early morning is going to be cooler than in the afternoon.

Tip 4: Choose cool clothing. Light-colored fabrics can help keep you from getting too hot.

Tip 5: Take a break. Sit under a shady tree, cool off in an air-conditioned room, or go inside. Resting helps keep your body temperature down.

Tip 6: Check on kids and the elderly. Young or non-verbal children can get dehydrated because they don’t ask for fluids. Grandparents and older neighbors may not have air conditioning, or may not want to get up frequently to get water or use the restroom. Certain medications may cause dehydration. A helping hand can keep more vulnerable individuals safe.

When to get help

If you do find yourself in a situation where you are starting to feel unwell, or are experiencing nausea, vomiting, headaches, cramps, dizziness, light-headedness, or a rapid pulse, it’s time to get out of the heat. Drink more fluids and cool your body down with a fan, water mist, ice, or air conditioning.

See if you start feeling better within about 30 minutes. If you aren’t recovering, or if you are unable to keep liquids down, it’s time to see a doctor. Providers at The Vancouver Clinic urgent care facilities can assess your situation, administer IV fluids, offer anti-nausea medication, and help cool you down.

Seizures, hallucinations, and irritable or combative behavior can be signs that the condition has progressed to heat stroke. This is a medical emergency and you should dial 9-1-1.

Staying safe

With the proper precautions, you should be able to safely enjoy your summer activities. Just remember to hydrate, stay cool, and get immediate medical help if you experience any symptoms.

Dr. Terry Moy-Brown is an emergency medicine physician in The Vancouver Clinic’s urgent care department. She has a special interest in public health. She is fluent in Spanish and conversant in Portuguese.