How To Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses

Heat-Related Illnesses

The summer is fully upon us and of course, we’ve not been spared the sweltering temperatures. In fact, according to new research, scientists have found that the earth is generally hotter than it has been in years. The number of cars on the road, trees which have been cut down and the expansion of industries are some of the reasons scientists outline as the cause of this. And so, no, it isn’t just in your mind. Temperatures are hotter than before. So what can you do about it to keep cool this summer and avoiding heat-related illnesses?

Each year in the US, thousands of people experience heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses which can lead to delirium, organ failure and even death. It is not uncommon to hear of older people, young children and pets succumbing to a heat-related illness. In this post, you’ll learn how to stay cool and avoid heat-related illnesses this summer. Your body is great at regulating your internal temperature. This mechanism fails however when you’re over-exposed to excessive heat and you lose the water and salts that your organs function on.

But you don’t have to get to the point of over-exposure.

Stay out of the sun as much as possible

This is an obvious tip but one that people ignore. It’s nice to be able to enjoy the summer heat especially if you were indoors all winter and spring due to the cold temperatures.

However, too much of a good thing, in this case, can be bad. If you absolutely need to be outside, make sure you have protective items like a hat or an umbrella which can shield you from the direct sunlight.

If you find that you’re getting too hot, find a cool spot under a tree or inside a building to cool off before you keep going.

Drink a lot of water and fluids

One of the hallmarks of heat-related illnesses is dehydration. This calls for drinking a lot of water to avoid becoming dehydrated.

70% of your body mass is made up of water. Thus, several essential functions in your body depend on the presence of water. Therefore it follows that if you’re not getting enough of it, your body could shut down.

Here are a few tips on how to stay hydrated this summer.

  • Get a designated drinking bottle. It doesn’t have to be a fancy water bottle. It just needs to be a bottle that you can remember to use. You can fill this bottle with water and put it in a place that reminds you to drink water throughout the day. For instance, in your office, you could put your water bottle right next to your workspace so you can remember to drink it.
  • Use a timer. While this may sound a little extreme, if you’re not good at remembering to drink water and want to develop the habit, this is a good way to remind yourself of it. Set a timer for one hour while you’re at work to remind yourself to drink water.
  • Flavor your water. If you’re avoiding water because it doesn’t taste good to you, you can add flavor to it to make it more palatable. Infusing your water with fruits and vegetables is a natural and excellent way to flavor your water.

Consuming drinks that are “heavy” on water, like tea, is also a good way to stay hydrated during these hot summer months.

Use air-conditioning and fans to stay cool

Even if you stay out of the sun, it is possible to experience a heat-related illness in a building or enclosed space that is too hot.

If your reason for not using air-conditioning and fans to stay cool is because your electric bill is high, this is something you could discuss with your employer (if they have an allowance for such a program) or with your utility company.

Several utility companies across the US provide income-based assistance to people who are struggling to pay their bills. If that is you, talking to the electric company so you can keep your home cool can be helpful.

If you’re an employer, it is your responsibility to make sure your offices and workspaces have enough ventilation and cooling.

How to identify a heat-related illness

So how will you know you or a co-worker are experiencing a heat-related illness? Here are the signs to look out for in milder cases.

  • Sweating
  • Pale or ashen (in darker people) skin
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate

If you notice these symptoms, the best course of action is to move the person to a cool/air-conditioned area and give them water or some other non-alcoholic beverage.

As the heat-related illness gets more severe (developing into what is called heat stroke), you will notice:

  • Skin that is hot to the touch. The person is no longer sweating at this point.
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Delirious behavior
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Body temperature is above 103 Fahrenheit

Heat stroke is an emergency. The best course of action is to call 911. While you wait, you can move the person to a cool area and offer them fluids like above.

Heat-related illnesses can happen to anybody. It doesn’t even matter if you grew up in a hot area of the country and so have a higher tolerance for the heat. Taking the precautions above seriously will keep you, your co-workers and family safe this summer.