Being outdoors is a big part of summer in Louisiana. Whether you’re going to a crawfish boil or a barbeque, spending some time by the pool with your children and grandkids, or going on a boating or fishing trip, there is a good chance you’ll be spending some time in the sun this summer.
The heat doesn’t just make you sweat--it can lead to more serious health problems if you aren’t careful. Remember these tips to keep yourself, your family, and your neighbors safe in the heat.
1. Stay hydrated.
Dehydration is a very serious concern, especially among children and older adults. Dehydration can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. If not treated immediately, severe dehydration can even be fatal. This is especially a concern in our climate--your body loses water more quickly in hot, humid weather because you sweat more. If you’re spending a lot of time out in the heat, you need to drink more water than you usually do to replenish the water your body is losing. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, you should still drink water regularly. Avoid alcohol and soda or other caffeinated or sugary beverages. These drinks can contribute to dehydration by causing the body to lose fluid more quickly.
2. Wear the right clothing.
You should wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing while spending time outside. Dark colors absorb the sun’s rays, so dark-colored clothing should be avoided. Even though it is hot, try to wear clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible to protect you from the sun. You should also wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes from the sun
3. Limit your time in the sun.
If you can, try to stay indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned building, during the hottest part of the day. Mornings and evenings are better for outdoor activities. If you must be outdoors during the hottest part of the day, seek shade often and try to avoid doing too much exercise or strenuous physical activity during that time.
4. Never skip sunscreen!
If you don’t wear sunscreen, you are more susceptible to sunburns. Even more concerning, prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun can lead to skin cancer in the future. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. One ounce, the size of a shot glass, is generally adequate enough to cover your body, but make sure you generously coat all exposed skin with sunscreen, no matter how much it takes. You should reapply every 2 hours.
5. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat cramps, often in the legs or abdomen, are an early sign that your body is losing fluid. Heat exhaustion can result in excessive sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and exhaustion. The skin may be cool, moist, pale, or flushed. Victims of heat stroke often have hot, red skin and a high body temperature. They may also go in and out of consciousness and begin vomiting. If you recognize any of these symptoms, seek medical attention. In the meantime, move to a cooler area, remove or loosen any tight clothing, and apply cool, wet cloths to the skin. Slowly drink cool water.
Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are very serious. Prevention is key, but know when you need to seek medical attention.
May all of you have a fun and safe summer!