Brutal … Sizzling … Searing. These words are often used to describe the summer heat in our Southern region of the U.S. While staying cool in the summer heat is a matter of comfort for most of us, for many folks, excessive exposure to heat can be very dangerous. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to stay cool and prevent heat-related illnesses during the hot summer months.
- Drink and eat plenty of fluids. Drink lots of cool water to increase your fluid intake regardless of your physical activity level. For something different, add a wedge of lemon or lime. Watch out for sugary drinks that can add up to unnecessary calories. Do avoid very cold drinks, though, as they can sometimes cause stomach cramps. Instead of hot foods, eat lighter summer fare which includes frequent small meals or snacks containing low fat dairy products or cold fruits and vegetables. Try starting the day off with peaches, plums, melons, pears, and cooling citrus. Include salads in your diet. Leafy lettuce and summer greens, cucumbers, and corn on the cob in salads are a tasty way to stay cool since these foods contain a significant amount of water. Fill ice cube trays with fruit and 100% juice and freeze for a tasty cooling treat that is both nutritious and delicious.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Choose light-colored clothes, since they reflect more rays than dark colors do. In the hot sun, wearing a wide-brimmed hat will help to keep your head cool. Wear cotton rather than synthetic fabrics. Since cotton is absorbent, it dries quickly and wicks away the sweat. Avoid shoes that trap in heat and sweat.
- Use a buddy system for work and play. When you are working in the heat, monitor your coworkers’ condition and have someone do the same for you. For information on keeping hydrated in hot working environments,check out Hydration in Hot Working Environments. If you are over 65 years of age, have someone check in on you twice a day. If you know anyone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day. Run through the sprinklers with friends like when you were a kid – or start a water balloon fight. Who cares what the neighbors think?
- If you do not have air-conditioning, try to spend at least parts of your day in a shopping mall, movie theater, public library, or other public space that is cool. Chill down a fan one more notch by putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan to ensure extra cold air. Try storing lotions or cosmetic toners in the refrigerator to use on hot, tired feet.
- Finally, if the heat is unbearable, stay indoors when you are able and avoid activities in direct sunlight or on hot asphalt surfaces. Pay special attention to infants, the elderly, and anyone with a chronic illness, since they may dehydrate easily and be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Certain medications also can increase sensitivity to the heat; check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if you need to stay out of the sun. Don’t forget that your pets need protection from dehydration and heat-related illnesses, too. For answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Extreme Heat, visit http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.asp.
This summer, don’t get too heated – chill out!