Heat-related illness is serious. Learn these safety tips before you step out in the sun:
- Drink up! Do not wait until you are thirsty to start hydrating. Drink two to four glasses of water each hour. If you are exercising for an extended period of time, drink a sports beverage to replace the salt and minerals you lose through sweat. If you are on diuretics or a low-salt or fluid-restricted diet, talk to your doctor first about your specific fluid needs.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Consider dressing in clothes made with moisture-wicking fabric.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher. Try to exercise in the shade. Play tennis on a court shaded by the trees or take a walk in a wooded park.
- Rest early and often. Take breaks in shady areas.
- Gradually get used to the heat. It takes seven to 10 days for your body to adapt to the change in temperature.
- Mind the weather. Do not exercise on the hottest days. Keep an eye on the heat index. The heat index is a calculation of the temperature and humidity. It measures "how hot it really feels" outside:
- Heat index 80 to 90 degrees: fatigue during exercise is possible. Heat exhaustion is a possibility even at these temperatures.
- Heat index of 90 to 105 degrees: heat cramps and heat exhaustion or heat stroke are possible.
- Heat index of 105 or higher: heat exhaustion is likely and heat stroke is possible.
Be cautious when the heat index gets above 80 degrees. Consider working out indoors.
- Stop if you don't feel well. If you have any of the warning signs of heat-related illness, stop your workout right away.
How the heat hurts you
We each have our own personal air-conditioning system inside our bodies. When we get hot, we sweat. Perspiration is our body's way of cooling off. As sweat evaporates, our body releases heat. But when you get extremely hot, sweat doesn't evaporate. The body then has to work extra hard to keep its temperature down. In time, our body will be unable to rid itself of the excess heat. This leads to a high body temperature and heat-related illness.
Recognize warning signs
The heat can take its toll on your body and make you sick. Heat-related illness can even be life-threatening. Learn how to spot signals of heat-related illness. They range from cramps to muscle spasms due to lost nutrients to more serious signs like dizziness or fainting.
Heat exhaustion is a warning sign that your body cannot keep itself cool. Stop exercising right away. Heat exhaustion is dangerous and may lead to heat stroke. Symptoms include:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Nausea or vomiting
Heat stroke is life-threatening. Stop exercising right away and call 9-1-1 for any of the following symptoms:
- Unusual behavior, hallucinations or confusion
- Fever of 104 degrees F or greater
Seek immediate medical attention if the person:
- Is vomiting and unable to keep fluids down
- Has dizziness or lightheadedness
- Looks very ill or is not getting better
Always check with your doctor before you take your exercise routine to the great outdoors.