Spring is on the horizon, which means sweltering temperatures will once more prevail in the Texas area. Extreme heat can be dangerous, especially to populations such as young children and the elderly. Prolonged exposure to hot temperature can cause dehydration, fatigue, and a deadly condition called heat stroke. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to stay safe, even on the hottest of Texas spring and summer days:
One of the simplest ways to reduce your risk of heat stroke is by drinking plenty of water. Aim for at least 64 ounces a day – the equivalent of eight glasses. If you work outdoors, you might need more to replace the fluids you lose through perspiration. Electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade can also help replace important nutrients you may lose working outside.
Fluids are important; but so is their quality. Avoid sugar-laden sodas and other beverages with caffeine. These drinks act as diuretics and cause you to lose water, not replace it. Stick to refreshing iced water and consider adding a lemon or other fresh fruit for taste if desired.
If you work outside, try to schedule most of your activities for the cooler times of day. Temperatures are generally hottest between 10 am and 4 pm, so try to complete any outdoor work in the early morning or evening hours.
If you must work during the hottest part of the day, seek shade whenever possible. Use umbrellas, canopies, or any other device that can limit your exposure to the sun. Wear clothing with UV protection if possible and load up on the heavy-duty sunblock.
Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness
There are several kinds of heat-related illness that can lead to dangerous consequences. Here are some of the most common:
- Heat rash. This is skin irritation that’s triggered by sweating. You may have heat rash if you notice red clusters of blisters on your body. Though not life threatening, heat rash can be uncomfortable and is a sure sign that you need a break from the heat.
- Heat cramps. These are painful cramps that result from imbalanced electrolytes, usually due to excessive sweating. You may notice pain or spasms in the arms, legs, or abdomen.
- Heat exhaustion. This heat-related condition is your body’s response to dehydration. You may notice weakness or fatigue, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, muscle cramps, flushed skin, excessive sweating, or clamminess.
- Heat stroke. The most serious of the heat-related illnesses, a heat stroke occurs when the body stops sweating and your internal body temperature rises. Symptoms include redness in the absence of sweating, a rapid pulse, chills, slurred speech, mental confusion, and a high body temperature. This is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
If you notice any signs of heat-related illness, stop what you’re doing and go indoors. Drink cool water, but not too fast. If you or someone you know exhibits signs of heat stroke, call emergency medical services, or take them to the nearest emergency room.
If you routinely work in extreme heat, pace yourself. Take frequent breaks, seek shade, and drink plenty of water and other electrolyte-balancing fluids. Avoid sugary liquids and carbonated drinks. Wear light reflective clothing with SPF protection if possible and be aware of any signs of heat-related illness. Do whatever it takes to avoid being in direct sun for prolonged periods of time.
The Texas summer swelter will be here before you know it. Working in our extreme heat can be dangerous, but there are a few simple ways you can enhance your safety. Follow these tips for a safe and healthy summer.