HOW TO MANAGE THE SUMMER HEAT AND AVOID HEAT-STROKE

10+15=25 Proven Tips to Protect Yourself

Summertime, When the Living is Easy and the Heat is On

Most of us love summer, but this year the HEAT is on. Be wary. Photo by Pixabay (Pexels)

It’s summer and we’re all taking time to enjoy ourselves, especially what we’ve endured over the past several years with the pandemic.  Rising gas and food prices are not even a deterrent.  We’re traveling, driving, flying, boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, biking, gardening, maintaining, dining, working and whatever other “ing” ending activity there is.  We’re doing all of it in a big way and having fun.

And we’re doing it during some of the hottest temperatures on record, across the northern hemisphere, and we’re only in July.  Yes, enjoy the summer months but please be wary of that dreaded heat stroke that accompanies outdoor activities.

Reading this blog may just save your life or someone you love.

Heat stroke is the most serious of the heat-related illnesses.  It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature.  The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweat mechanism shuts down, and the body is unable to cool down.  When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher within a short 10-15 minutes of getting over-heated.  

My BoomerGuy and I both had heat stroke while living in Palm Desert, CA.  It’s not uncommon and hopefully if you are subject to it you will recover like we did but be very wary because handling the heat following heat stroke is very different. 

Here is a reminder for all of you who live in the other parts of the country where you have high heat accompanied by high humidity.  A double whammy.  

This is precisely what happened to my mother-in-law on a high heat, high humidity day in eastern Nebraska.  My BoomerGuy had called her the night before and reminded her about the extreme heat warnings and to avoid being outdoors for a prolonged period and to stay indoors under the air conditioning.  She had some heart-related issues prior, but like many of us that didn’t stop her from doing what she enjoyed.  

She said she would watch it, however the next morning we received a call from one of her neighbors that she had died in her back yard.  She was on a ladder taking care of one of her windows when she passed out and fell to her death.  She was 74. 

For all of us Boomers, we are either at that age or fast approaching it, so be careful out there.

Needless to say, if you have any sort of heart issues the last thing you want to do is put undue stress on your body and heart in extreme heat conditions.  Don’t lift anything over a few pounds and make certain you are in the heat only for a few minutes.  Then get cool.

How do you know if you are experiencing heat stroke?

Heat stroke signs and symptoms:

  1. A core body temperature of 104F (40C) or higher is major cause for concern.
  2. Altered mental state or behavior.  Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heat stroke.
  3. Alteration in perspiration.  In heat stroke caused by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch.  
  4. Nausea or vomiting.  You may feel sick to your stomach.
  5. Flushed skin.  Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  6. Rapid breathing.  Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
  7. Racing heart rate.  Your pulse may increase significantly because of heat stress, where your heart rate tries to overcompensate to help cool down your body.
  8. Headache.  Your head may throb.  
  9. Your hands and arms may begin shaking uncontrollably.
  10. You may experience cramps and severe exhaustion. 

If any of these symptoms should occur, take immediate action to cool down the overheated person.  

Causes.  Heat stroke can occur as a result of:

  1. Prolonged exposure to a hot environment.  The main type called non-exertional (classic) heat stroke is due to prolonged exposure to hot, humid weather and is especially prevalent in older persons and those with chronic illness.
  2. Strenuous activity called exertional heat stroke is caused by an increase in core body temperature brought on by intense physical activity in hot weather.  

In either of the two situations, your condition may be brought on by:

  1. Wearing excess clothing that prevents sweat from evaporating easily and cooling your body.
  2. Drinking alcohol which can affect your body’s ability to regulate your temperature.  
  3. Become dehydrated by not drinking enough water to replenish fluids lost through sweating.

Prevention.  Heat stroke is predictable and preventable.  Take these steps to avoid heat stroke during these hot summer months. 

  • Wear loose fitting, light weight, cotton clothing.  Anything that fits tight won’t allow your body to cool properly.
  • Protect against sunburn.  Hey Boomers, we’ve all been there in our youth, but don’t do it now. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself, so protection in the form of a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses.  Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50, and use it liberally when outdoors.  Apply more if you’re swimming with your grandkids.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.  Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain normal temperatures.
Don’t forget the water, all day long. Photo by Alex Azabache (Pexels)
  • Take extra precautions with your medications.  Read the labels carefully and be on the lookout for heat related problems if you take meds that affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat.
  • Never, never, leave anyone or your pets in a parked car, whether the car is running with the AC on or not.  This is the most common cause of heat related deaths in children and pets.  When parked in the sun, the temperature in your car can rise to 120+ degrees within a matter of minutes.  When we lived in the desert, the temperature gauge in the car would easily reach 120 after a Costco trip.
Keep your pets safe in the car, do not allow them to get overheated. Photo by Kampus Production (Pexels)
  • Plan to take it easy during the hottest parts of the day.  If you can’t avoid strenuous activity in hot weather, drink fluids and rest frequently in a cool or shady spot.  Try to schedule exercise or physical labor during the cooler parts of the day.
  • Get acclimated.  Limit the time spent working, gardening or exercising in the heat until your conditioned.  People who are not used to the heat are especially susceptible to heat-related illnesses.  It can take several weeks for your body to adjust to the hot weather.

Tips and home remedies if you suspect you have heat stroke.

Home treatments aren’t always enough for heat stroke, especially for the young and older populations.  If you have signs or someone around you has signs, seek emergency medical help immediately.  If you have someone nearby, have them take steps to cool you off until the EMT’s arrive. 

These may seem like rather mundane recommendations, but when it comes to our health and wellness, we cannot be too careful in this extreme heat.  Again, these may just save your life or that of a loved one, friend or neighbor.  So, here they are, 10 very healthy tips to avoid overheating and heat stroke.

  • Do not sit in your car in the parking lot waiting on your mate.  If the AC is on in your car, it might overheat.  If it’s not, it could spell disaster for you, your grandlchildren and anyone else with you in the car, especially your little pets.
Our grandchildren are so precious. Safe guard them at all times. Photo by Ashley K. Bowen (Pexels)
  • The most obvious, avoid prolonged exposure to the heat.  Stay indoors, go to a movie theater, try the shopping mall, the public library, or whatever, but manage your exposure.
  • If you’re planning your outdoor activities, do them in the morning when the temps are much cooler.  I do all my gardening before 7:00 am.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.  You see athletes drinking Gatorade or other sport nutrients—the reason, they know their bodies need to stay hydrated to be at the top of their game.
  • If you do get overheated, immediately get into a cold water bath, or lie down on a tile floor, both will act as a heat sink and lower your body temperature.  Take a cool shower or bath.  If need be, use a hose, pond, pool or stream.
Photo by Jill Burrow (Pexels)
  • Ingest salt.  Yes, eat some salt because most likely your electrolytes are upside down and need to replaced.  Crackers, potato chips, or a banana, which is ripe with potassium.
  • Immediately lie down and remain calm in a cool environment. 
  • Just remember, at our age, we don’t need to impress anyone with our stamina to endure hot temperatures.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or sugary drinks, they will have a direct negative effect on your ability to overcome heat related illness.  Stay with good old water, cool water, not cold because cold drinks can cause stomach cramps.
  • If you do suffer from heat stroke, call 911 or get someone to take you to the emergency room post haste.  

If you must find yourself outdoors during a severe warm up, here are 15 proven and highly recommended tips I use all the time to protect my health.

  • Wear a hat or ball cap.
  • Keep a spritz bottle of water to spray on your face occasionally to cool down.
  • Keep a small battery powered fan close by and turn it on to cool down your face and head.  Combine this with the water from the spray bottle.
  • Keep an umbrella close by to shield you from the sun.
Always carry an umbrella in your car. We saw a lady involved in a car accident standing by her car in the heat of the afternoon. She had an umbrella shading her from the sun. Great idea! Photo by Engine Akyurt (Pexels)
  • When you get back in your car which has been sitting on the hot pavement in the parking lot, open the driver door and let it remain open for a short minute to allow the heat to escape from the auto.  I recommend this only if, and I mean only if, there is no threat to your safety by doing so.
  • Use a windshield sun blocker to help reduce the heat build-up inside your car.
  • Immediately turn on your seat cooler in the car if it is so equipped.  Don’t rely simply on your air conditioning.
  • Park under some shade if it’s available.
  • Take a cooler filled with your favorite sports drink—I prefer grape flavored low-sugar Gatorade.  I have my cooler in the seat right next to me for quick access.
  • Never go anywhere without your sunglasses.  EVER!
The essentials: a hat and sunglasses. Photo by Porapak Apichodilok (Pexels)
  • Take a wet cloth in your ice chest and wrap it around your neck or forehead if need be.
  • Wear light colored clothing, preferably out of cotton because of its breathability.
  • Take a towel and use it to grab the steering wheel of your car because it will likely be hot to handle.  No sense burning your hands.
  • Check with your doctor on the next visit and discuss so you’re prepared, especially if you’re on a restricted salt diet.
  • Be sure to check on your neighbors, especially if they are elderly.  

We all love summertime, and who doesn’t.  Remember the Lovin’ Spoonful and their song:  Summer in the City.  “Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirt and gritty. Been down isn’t it a pity.  Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city.  All around, walking on the side-walk, hotter than a match head.”

In all parts of the world, it feels like the Sahara desert this summer. Hope you found our tips helpful. Photo by Francesco Ungaro (Pexels)

Boomers, stay informed, practice good health tips, and stay relevant.  You may just save a life.  We are not medical professionals and a portion of this content is a result of editorial contribution from experts at the Mayo Clinic.

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