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12 Tips for Avoiding Heat-Related Illness
- DRESS APPROPRIATELY: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to keep cool.
- STAY INDOORS: Stay inside and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place, even if it is the mall or library. If your home is not air-conditioned, open the windows and use fans to circulate the warm air out of your house. Close the shades or curtains on the sunny side of your home.
- TIME IT RIGHT: If you must be outside, limit your activity to early morning and late evening hours when the temperature is lower.
- STAY HYDRATED: Drink more fluids, preferably water, regardless of your level of activity. However, avoid liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar, as they can cause dehydration. Avoid very cold drinks, because they can lead to stomach cramps. Talk to your doctor if you are taking medication that requires you to limit your amount of daily fluids.
- COOL OFF: Electric fans may provide immediate comfort, but when the temperature is excessively high, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Take a cool shower or bath, or move to an air-conditioned place to beat the heat more effectively.
- TAKE A BREAK: If you must be outside, try to rest often in shady areas. Cut down on exercise. If you do exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
- EAT SOMETHING: Eat small meals more frequently. Stay away from foods that are high in protein. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
- CHECK ON FRIENDS & FAMILY: Although anyone is susceptible to heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check frequently on infants/young children, senior citizens (65+), people who have a mental illness, and those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure. (Don't forget to check on your pets, too.)
- SHADE YOURSELF: If you must be out in the heat, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher bearing the label "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection").
- KNOW THE SIGNS: For yourself and for the people around you, watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Early symptoms of heat-related illness could include muscle cramps; pale/moist skin; dizziness; exhaustion; headache; slight loss of appetite; decreased energy and/or nausea.
- Later symptoms could include vomiting; decreased alertness or loss of consciousness; high body temperature; moist sweaty skin or red, hot and dry skin; a rapid or a weak pulse; and rapid or shallow breathing. This late stage of a heat-related illness is life threatening. Call 9-1-1 immediately.
- SPEAK UP: If you believe you are feeling the effects of the extreme heat, let someone know - a neighbor, a relative, the person next to you in line, or your doctor.
- BE AUTO AWARE: Finally, NEVER leave anyone (adult, child or pet) in a closed, parked vehicle for any amount of time ever. The temperatures inside an automobile can soar to excessively high temperatures at a dangerous rate in just minutes.
Last Updated: 7/20/2009