Summer is here and many of us want to spend it poolside, taking in a scenic hiking trail, gardening out in the yard, and more. Even so, as we enjoy the sunshine, we need to be aware of a real danger that could affect our summer days: heat illness. Also known as, hyperthermia, heat illness is a condition where the body becomes incapable of cooling itself off, leading to serious illness. According to the CDC, it accounts for 658 deaths in the U.S. each year, making it is incredibly dangerous. Even though the threat of heat illness is serious, there are still many ways to enjoy the outdoors safely this summer.
1) Stay Hydrated
Dehydration puts you at a higher risk for heat illness. If you know you’re going to be out in the heat, it’s a good idea to hydrate throughout the day. Additionally, if you know you’re going to be active outside, you need to hydrate the day before. Most people remember to hydrate during an activity, but you need to be well hydrated in advance. If you’re planning a hike on Saturday, make sure you drink enough water on Friday.
2) Wear Cool Clothing
While it goes without saying that you shouldn’t wear a turtleneck to the beach, make sure that your wear loose, sweat-wicking clothing. If you’re wearing heavy material like sports gear, you may be at an increased risk of heat illness and you should be more cautious. Light-colored clothing will also do a better job of reflecting heat. Try shirts that cover the body to protect against sunburn.
3) Stay Inside When Possible
There are plenty of ways to exercise safely indoors. If you like to exercise outside, try sticking to early mornings and late evenings, when it is cooler out. Try to avoid midday heat and keep an eye on the temperature and heat index (what the temperature outside actually feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with temperature).
4) Listen To Your Body
Your body is the best judge of your individual limits. Heat exhaustion or stroke won’t happen immediately, so if you learn to recognize the signs, you may save yourself some pain. Some signs of heat illness include:
• Sunburn and heat rash
• Heat cramps due to dehydration or electrolyte imbalances
• Clammy, wet skin
• Quick, shallow breathing
• Heavy sweating and excessive thirst
• Fainting, weakness, dizziness
If you suspect you might be at risk for heat illness, don’t delay. Immediately hydrate and go inside to a place with air conditioning. If you can’t go inside, try to get out of the sun. If you experience more serious symptoms, including shortness of breath/hyperventilation, fainting, seizures, or any other concerning symptoms, reach out to a doctor.
“Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are major medical issues that need to be addressed immediately,” said Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Athletic Trainer, Tina Keasey of TPMG Strive Fitness and Sports Performance.
You can still find fun ways to exercise and stay active regardless of the heat. Swimming is a great way to remain active outdoors and keep your body temperature down. When it’s really hot, try exercising indoors, at a gym, or in places without sunlight exposure. There are tons of interesting ways to stay active indoors. Consider lifting weights or trying a new machine at the gym. Don’t know where to start? The personal trainers at TPMG Strive Fitness and Sports Performance can help you find a fitness routine that fits your unique needs.
About Tina Keasey, ATC/L, CSCS
Tina Keasey, ATC/L, CSCS is a licensed and certified athletic trainer with the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) and the Virginia Board of Medicine. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Throughout her career, she has worked with the 2001 Junior Olympics, 2003 Senior Olympics, several semi-professional soccer and basketball players, as well as NCAA track and field champions. She looks forward to helping clients at TPMG–Strive Fitness and Sports Performance find the right fitness routine to fit their lifestyle, as she believes it is an integral part of living your fullest life.