When the temperature rises and outdoor activity increases, it is a sure sign that summer is here. This can be great for our health as we are more active. However, as summer gets into full swing and temperatures reach dangerous levels, the risk to overall health can also be threatened. Heat exhaustion and heat-related injuries are very serious issues to look out for this summer.
Preventing heat exhaustion and heat-related injuries is fairly simple if you know a few facts. The first step to avoiding these serious conditions is understanding your own risk factors as well as your family members.
We all need to be careful when physically active outside during high temperatures. But some people are already at a greater risk for heat exhaustion and heat-related injury because of certain personal factors. These factors include but are not limited to age, overall health, body fat percentage, clothing, exposure to direct sun and hydration level before activity.
People with a high risk for heat exhaustion and heat-related injury include children, elderly individuals, people with a high body fat percentage, people wearing dark clothing and individuals with direct exposure from the sun.
Ways to prevent or decrease the likelihood of heat exhaustion and heat related injury:
- Hydrate adequately before engaging in physical activity in the heat.
- Wear light colored clothing as it does not absorb heat in the same way that dark clothing does.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Know your limits. If you have not been in a routine of exercising outside, it is not wise to start up a new program without building up your stamina and endurance.
- Avoid exercising in the heat if you have a fever. You will be more prone to over-heat quickly.
- Stay out of the direct heat as much as possible.
- Listen to heat warnings and advisories. Check your local weather to be aware of the expected conditions before planning to be outside doing any physical activity.
- Continue to hydrate frequently before, during and after physical activity.
Beyond the obvious health risks associated with heat exhaustion, other injuries can result from too much activity in the heat. As your body loses salt and water through perspiration, weakness and fatigue can set in very quickly. You could be more prone to injuries when your body isn’t able to perform as it should. You could be more likely to lose your balance, trip and generally use poor form during activity. These circumstances can easily result in a bad fall, strain, sprain or even a broken limb.
Just as important as preventing heat exhaustion and heat-related injury is recognizing the warning signs. Be sure to listen to your body and to stop activity if you are not feeling well.