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Staying safe in summer heat

Main Line Health February 4, 2014 General Wellness

Spending time outside is one of the biggest perks of summer weather, but when temperatures begin to climb, too much time outside can be dangerous and present health risks.“High temperatures and humidity can be extremely dangerous if they’re not taken seriously,” says Dr. Steven Gamburg, chairman of emergency medicine at Main Line Health. “Although it’s especially dangerous for those with pre-existing health problems, anyone spending time outside is at risk.”

Dr. Gamburg says if you don’t have to be outside on particularly hot or humid days, then don’t. Save errands for the next day or find an indoor activity. But if you have to be outdoors, take a few precautions to protect yourself:

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water before you go outside, and continue to do so all day. Avoid sodas and alcohol. They won’t provide the same hydrating benefits.

Take a break

Take frequent breaks throughout the day, whether it’s in shade or air-conditioning.

Schedule carefully

The sun is highest between Noon and 3:00 pm, but play it safe by avoiding outdoor activities from 11:00 am–4:00 pm. Temperatures will likely be cooler early in the morning or later at night, so try to keep any errands or activities, including workouts, during those times.

Dress for the weather

Avoid heavy fabrics and choose light, loose-fitting clothing and hats to allow your body to cool off more easily.

Tips like these can help you stay cool on hot summer days, but if you begin to notice symptoms like nausea, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, or heavy sweating, it’s time to head inside. These are symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke and can be dangerous if left untreated. Use cold packs or towels to bring your body temperature down, and remove any tight clothing. This should help alleviate any symptoms but if they don’t subside, it’s time to call your doctor.

Remember to especially keep an eye out for young children and the elderly, who may not realize how quickly the heat can affect them. Give outdoor pets extra water on warm days or try to keep them inside.

Main Line Health’s emergency departments at Lankenau Medical Center and Bryn Mawr, Paoli, and Riddle hospitals are all equipped to handle heat-related emergencies.