Did you know that the CDC reports nearly 700 Americans die each summer from extreme heat? Higher outdoor temperatures can lead to hyperthermia (high body temperature), ultimately resulting in complications. It's August, and we are getting closer to fall. However, summer is not over yet.
Prolonged heat exposure in the summer months can cause heat stroke and dehydration. What's more, extreme heat can worsen certain health concerns, including heart problems. Complications and illnesses due to heat are preventable.
Here we explain why high summer temperatures are concerning and what precautions you should take this summer.
Intense heat presents a health risk for everyone, especially those with heart conditions. They face danger and even an increased risk of death. That is because the way that our bodies adjust to heat can cause internal stress and even restrict blood flow. Also, blood pressure can increase when the body tries to cool itself, which strains vessels and the heart.
If you have ever had a stroke or a heart attack, your body may not be strong enough to compensate for the strain caused by extreme heat. If you start to feel sick or extremely uncomfortable from the heat, it could be a sign that something is going on. So, you should take action to calm and cool the body.
Here are a few ways to help your body manage the stress of extreme temperatures this summer.
During the summer, you must stay hydrated. Taking in enough fluids each day is essential to avoiding heat-related complications. Unless your doctor restricts your fluid intake because of heart or kidney disease, you should drink plenty of water. Avoid caffeinated beverages. Also, eat fruits that are high in water content, such as:
Fruits also contain fiber, which can help balance your body's hydration.
Note: If your doctor has limited your water intake, ask how much you should drink this summer.
This summer, avoiding sugary drinks like soda and juices would be best because they may increase the risks of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. They can also lead to a "sugar crash," which can drain your energy and harm your teeth.
Salts and other minerals in the body are essential for vital body functions, including:
Heavy sweating during the summer results in loss of electrolytes, like salts and minerals. It is best to replenish electrolytes during this season through a balanced diet. Consider adding a multivitamin to your diet to stay healthy so that you will be able to avoid heat-related health complications this summer.
If you are going to be outside during the summer, experts recommend wearing loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes. Light color clothes absorb less heat and may reflect the sun's rays compared to dark colors and heavy clothes.
In extreme heat, it is best to stay indoors in air-conditioned places. If you do not have air-conditioning at home, you could go to a public place like the library. Resting in air-conditioned buildings for part of the day will cool your body. Remember that fans can make you comfortable but may not prevent heat-related complications when the temperature is very high.
If you don't have adequate air conditioning, you can also try to take a cool bath or shower.
Avoid using your stove and oven as much as possible to keep your home cool.
If you must be outside, try to schedule outdoor activities during the coolest times of day, morning and evening hours. Rest in shady areas.
It is important to use sunblock because sunburn reduces your body's ability to cool down. It also makes you vulnerable to dehydration.
You may be able to prevent sunburn by wearing hats, sunglasses, and a broad-spectrum sunscreen outdoors. Try to apply SPF 15 or higher sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors.
Although anyone can suffer from heat-related complications, some people are at higher risk. These may include:
If you have loved ones at risk this summer, visit them or check on them frequently, especially during the day. Children and older adults may need extra help during summer.
Also, watch local news updates on extreme temperatures and safety precautions.
If you or someone you know is not tolerating extreme heat this summer, here are some of the signs and symptoms you might notice.
If you are with someone who complains of these heat-related symptoms, help them find a place to rest and cool off with a fan and a cold towel. Call a healthcare provider if the symptoms do not improve.
Talk with one of our expert doctors if you want to learn more about virtual services. My Virtual Physician offers video consultations for non-emergency care to older adults and children. If you need to see a doctor, book now.
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Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. The information, graphics, and images on this site are not intended to substitute diagnosis or treatment by a medical professional. Always seek the advice of a licensed physician for any questions you may have regarding a specific condition.
“Extreme Weather and Your Heart: What You Need to Know When It Gets Really HOT!”. secondscount.org. Accessed July 31, 2022.
“Heat Exposure and Cardiovascular Health: A Summary for Health Departments”. cdc.gov. Accessed July 31, 2022.
“Heat-related health dangers for older adults soar during the summer”. nih.gov. Accessed July 31, 2022.
"Work Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Elements of Your Written Program and Effective Work Practices". dir.ca.gov. Accessed July 31, 2022.
“15 Water Rich Fruits To Keep Your Hydrated in Summer | List Of Water Rich Fruits | Fruits With Highest Water Content”. seniority.in. Accessed July 31, 2022.
Sarah Falcone, BSN, RN, WCN-C, CSWD-C, is a registered nurse in Fort Worth, TX. She works with clients in home health, wound care, and telemedicine. Sarah is a passionate advocate for moving advanced levels of care to the home, where her clients can safely receive the medical treatments they need with greater satisfaction and comfort. She focuses on patient experience, outcomes, and advancing clinical models using innovative technology to serve patients better. Sarah draws from 15 years of practicing patient care and nursing leadership to share her own nursing experiences and expertise online. Connect with her on LinkedIn!