Summer is the season of fun in the sun, full of vacations, beach days, and outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and boating – but as temperatures soar and the blazing sun takes center stage, it's important to remember sun-soaked activities (whether for work or play) can lead to serious heat related illnesses.
Be prepared and pay attention to weather alerts like heat advisories and excessive heat warnings, which mean it will become dangerously hot. These warnings are no joke – heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the U.S., causing hundreds of deaths every year.
In this blog post, we'll discuss the warning signs of both dehydration and heat exhaustion, tips for staying hydrated, and various ways to beat the heat during sweltering summer days. So grab a tall glass of water, settle in, and let’s prepare for a heatwave.
Dehydration's Telltale Signs
Staying hydrated is the first step to surviving the heat and protecting yourself from heat related illnesses. When it's hot outside, the body sweats more in an effort to keep itself cool. Add physical exertion into the mix and you could quickly become dehydrated.
Unfortunately, it's easy for dehydration to sneak up on you, especially if you're spending long hours outside or simply forget to drink enough fluids. That's why recognizing the symptoms of dehydration is crucial – by doing so, you can take action before any serious complications arise.
Dark-colored urine and urinating less frequently than normal are both early warning signs that your body is in need of fluids. Other common signs include dry skin, dry mouth, bad breath, fatigue, dizziness or lightheadedness, and headaches.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it's crucial to take immediate action by rehydrating and taking steps to prevent further dehydration. Remember: with a little bit of knowledge and vigilance, dehydration won't stand a chance at ruining your summer survival plans.
5 Tips for Staying Hydrated
Drink water consistently: Aim to drink water regularly throughout the day, even if you don't feel thirsty. Thirst can be an unreliable indicator of dehydration, so it's better to create a consistent habit of drinking water to maintain proper hydration.
Limit dehydrating beverages and add hydrating beverages: Reduce your intake of caffeinated, alcoholic, and high-sugar beverages, as these can contribute to dehydration. Instead, opt for water, herbal teas, or other hydrating drinks like coconut water or electrolyte-based beverages.
*Keep in mind - It's actually possible to drink too much water. If you've been guzzling water like a desert wanderer all day, it can cause electrolyte levels to get out of whack (especially sodium), so make sure you replenish much-needed electrolytes too.
Opt for hydrating foods: Include water-rich foods in your diet, such as fruits (like watermelon, strawberries, and oranges) and vegetables (like cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers). These foods not only provide essential nutrients but also help you stay hydrated.
Keep a reusable water bottle handy: Keep a water bottle with you at all times, whether you're at work, running errands, or enjoying outdoor activities. This will make it easy to sip on water throughout the day and refill as needed.
Keep an eye on your pee: A good way to check your hydration status is by observing your urine color. Ideally, your urine should be a pale-yellow color. If it's darker, it may be a sign that you need to drink more water.
Recognizing Heat Exhaustion and Preventing Heatstroke
Like dehydration above, summer activities and hot weather can also lead to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that can result in heatstroke if not recognized and treated early.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both heat-related illnesses, but they differ in severity and symptoms. Heat exhaustion is a milder condition that occurs when the body is exposed to high temperatures and starts to lose water and electrolytes. If left unchecked, it can progress to heatstroke, which is a more severe and life-threatening condition where the body's cooling mechanisms fail, leading to a dangerously high core body temperature.
To prevent heatstroke, it's crucial to recognize and address the early signs of heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion is often accompanied by dehydration and has many of the same symptoms, including nausea, fatigue, feeling faint or dizzy, muscle cramps, heavy sweating, and dark-colored urine. Another common symptom is a rapid heartbeat, because the body is working harder to cool itself down.
Tips for Cooling Down and Bouncing Back from Heat Exhaustion
To stave off and recover from heat exhaustion – and ultimately prevent heatstroke – it's crucial to recognize and address these early signs of heat exhaustion by seeking shade (or AC) immediately, drinking fluids, and cooling down the body.
You can utilize cold compresses and portable fans for on-the-go relief. Frozen treats like homemade popsicles make for a refreshing snack and can help cool you down. Cold showers and baths can also dramatically lower your core temperature.
Prepare before you head outdoors and wear lightweight and breathable clothing, drink plenty of water, and apply sunscreen to avoid sunburn. If you're able to, avoid outdoor activities during peak sun hours and schedule them during cooler times of the day.
Remember these tips for summer survival and enjoy the sunny season without risking heat exhaustion.
*Note: If heat exhaustion symptoms don't get better with intervention, or if they start to turn into symptoms of heat stroke, which include confusion, slurred speech, throbbing headache, red and hot skin, lack of sweating despite the heat, rapid and shallow breathing, an extremely elevated body temperature (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), seizures, or even unconsciousness, call 911 immediately and take steps to cool the person down while waiting for medical aid.
Outsmart the Heat on Scorching Days
When it comes to summer survival, beating the heat is a top priority. While fun in the sun is a staple of the season, scorching hot days can be a threat to your survival, and the warning signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion should not be ignored. These conditions can quickly become dangerous, even deadly, if not handled properly. Staying hydrated and taking breaks in cooler areas are a few strategies for recovery, but it's important to prepare and be proactive in protecting yourself from the outset. Don't let the heat get the best of you – arm yourself with knowledge, take common-sense precautions, and enjoy all that summer has to offer safely.