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Hot Weather Tips

Hot weather is here. That means it’s the perfect time to go for a swim, enjoy an ice cream or relax in a hammock while catching up on some summer reading. But before lathering on the sunscreen and heading outdoors, check out these important tips to help avoid heat stress when the temperatures soar.

  • Drink plenty of cool water . Avoid alcohol, which can impact your ability to sweat properly, and caffeine, which is a natural diuretic. For congestive heart failure patients, there's a delicate balance between draining excess fluid and avoiding dehydration — these individuals should watch their weight to ensure that they are not gaining or losing fluid.
  • Eat light, easily digested food . Avoid hot or heavy foods that will increase your core temperature during digestion.
  • Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing so sweat can evaporate. In the hot sun, cover up with a hat and sunscreen.
  • Limit outdoor activity during mid-day when temperatures are highest. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body's thermostat will have a chance to recover.
  • Exercise in controlled temperature settings . You can stay active during the hottest heat wave by visiting an indoor gym or pool, walking in a shopping mall, taking a fitness class or even ice skating at an indoor rink!

Why Heat Can Be Hazardous

“Engaging in outdoor activities in hot and humid conditions can be hard on your heart,” says Airley E. Fish, MD, MPH, cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s CardioVascular Institute. “The heart works to circulate blood and oxygen to muscles while the body attempts to cool itself by sweating. Sweating too much decreases blood volume and makes your heart work harder to circulate blood. This state of dehydration can raise your body temperature and cause heat-related injuries.”

Who’s at risk for heat stroke?

  • People with heart disease or high blood pressure or those who take certain medications may be more vulnerable to extreme heat.
  • People over age 65 , whose bodies do not control temperature as well as younger individuals.
  • People who are overweight , since their bodies may hold more heat than others.
  • Infants and children aged 4 or under , who can dehydrate quickly because of their small size.
  • People with sunburn , which impairs the cooling mechanism of the skin.

Trouble Signs and Solutions

In extreme temperatures, people can experience heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Here are the symptoms and remedies for each of these heat-related ailments.

  • Heat cramps are muscle cramps usually experienced in the stomach, arms or legs during heavy activity. It is best for the person experiencing heat cramps to sit quietly in a cool place and drink sips of water, clear juice, or a sports drink. Applying pressure or gentle massage can help relieve the cramps. If the cramping continues after an hour, seek medical attention.
  • Heat exhaustion can occur from excess exposure to or activity in extreme heat. Symptoms for heat exhaustion can include: heavy sweating, breathlessness, fast but weak pulse, headache, dizziness and nausea or vomiting. Treatment options include cooling down in an air-conditioned room or shaded area, sipping cool water, and getting rest. Taking a cool shower or bath can also help. If the symptoms are severe, or if the person has heart disease or high blood pressure, call for medical help right away.
  • Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. With heat stroke, the body can no longer cool itself down through sweating and can result in damage to major organs. Symptoms include: hot dry skin, fever higher than 102°F, headache, confusion and unconsciousness. If you see someone suffering from heat stroke, call for help and then cool the person by helping them to an air-conditioned room or shade. Apply cool water with wet cloths, a bath or shower or even light spray from a garden hose. If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.

Keep Your Cool

So stay cool this summer by protecting yourself, your family and the elderly. And remember, sometimes the best advice is the simplest advice: drink plenty of water, avoid the mid-day sun and don’t forget to wear a hat and sunscreen.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.