Beat the heat, and stay safe with summer survival tips

As temperatures sizzle this summer, take heat-related precautions to stay safe and healthy.

“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate,” recommended Dr. Amy Johnson, a family nurse practitioner for Centra Medical Group in Bedford County and president of Bedford County Farm Bureau. “Drinking sports drinks in addition to water is helpful, as this helps replace electrolytes like potassium and sodium that are lost by sweating.”

Becoming dehydrated can be dangerous for several reasons, Johnson cautioned.

beat the heat
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“As dehydration occurs, the body will lose the ability to sweat, and this prevents the body from being able to cool itself,” she explained. “Increased body temperature can cause brain damage and swelling, muscle breakdown and kidney damage. Complications from heat stress can come on very quickly, and a person may not recognize the symptoms until they are very sick.”

Heat stress symptoms can include muscle spasms; abdominal, bicep, tricep, calf or thigh cramping; prickly heat and red spots and bumps or inflamed skin; dehydration; pale or clammy skin; fatigue and dizziness; shallow breathing; nausea and vomiting; rapid pulse; confusion or disorientation; or an altered mental state.

Those who work outside are especially susceptible to heat stress. They need to frequently drink water and take breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas.

Individuals who appear to be experiencing heat-related illness need to cool off as quickly as possible.

“Get the person out of the heat to a building or car with air conditioning,” Johnson said. “If out in the open, go to a shady area out of direct sunlight. Start cooling them with cool rags, ice packs, fans and cold beverages. If there is concern about heat-related emergencies, it is important to have the person evaluated by medical staff.”

Johnson also recommended the following tips:

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight. Many fabrics that will wick moisture off the skin and help with cooling are also available.
  • Take frequent breaks in shady areas to cool down.
  • Avoid working in the hottest parts of the day, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Avoid outdoor activities when the heat index is high.

Some medications such as diuretics, diabetic drugs or antibiotics can increase the risk of heat-related emergencies. Check with your doctor or pharmacist with any questions about medication side effects.

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