With rising temperatures, longer days and the sun beating down, medical professionals emphasize the importance of protecting oneself against heat-related illness.
Brad Garstang, primary care physician at Liberty Hospital Primary Care Shoal Creek, said many people don’t realize it takes two weeks to become acclimated to the heat.
“When going outside, limit your time in the sun and gradually build up to longer periods of time,” he said.
Acclimation & sunblock
After acclimating, there are still precautions everyone should take. Too much time in the sun, WIC Nutritionist at Clay County Public Health Center Megan Justice agreed, can cause a variety of problems like heat exhaustion, heat stroke, sunburn and dehydration.
“We can protect from the sun by wearing hats and sunblock, SPF 30 or higher,” Justice said.
While some may recommend a sunblock with SPF 15 or higher and others recommend the strongest SPF on the shelf, Justice suggests products with an SPF of 30 to 50. Anything higher than that, she said, is unnecessary and likely won’t make much of a difference.
“It’s also important to make sure children are protected and regularly drinking water,” Justice continued.
Water is important for children as well as adults. Drinking eight cups per day before 3 p.m. is recommended by doctors, plus another cup for every hour of activity. Dehydration is a common problem and summer heat only exacerbates those risks, experts said. The symptoms of dehydration, Garstang said, are thirst and dark urine.
“You want it to look like lemonade, not like apple juice,” the doctor said of the color one’s urine should be.
Justice said it’s important to turn to water rather than sports drinks when needing something to drink. Sugar, which is in most sports drinks, can be harmful, she said. With some rigorous activities, sports drinks may be practical, but for the average landscaper, youth or green thumb in the garden, Justice said water is best.
Times to avoid outdoors
Garstang recommends when doing yard work or exercising, to avoid the high heat times of day. Justice added high UV index times are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Exercise or yard work should be completed in morning or evening hours, Garstang said, when the sun is lower in the sky. He also recommends wearing moisture-wicking, non-absorbent materials, avoiding cotton; and taking breaks often to help prevent heat-related illness.
Symptoms of illness
“Heat exhaustion causes dizziness, light headedness, nausea and a temperature can raise to 103 but the individual is still sweating,” Garstang said. “Heat stroke is more severe and has stroke-like symptoms.”
In addition to one’s temperature potentially reaching 104 degrees, other heat stroke symptoms Garstang listed are trouble speaking, numbness and the lack of sweat. If one has stopped sweating in the heat, it is a bad sign. Additionally, heat stroke can render a person unconscious, so those spending long hours in the sun should bring a buddy.
“If these symptoms do not improve, seek medical attention,” Garstang said.
Experts say those who like to run and are acclimated to high activity should watch out for rapid heartbeat, irritability, confusion, dark or no urine, dry skin and mouth, thirst, headaches and muscle cramps.