Keeping Cool In Summer Heat

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Summer's sweltering heat can be tough to take — not just in terms of comfort level, but also with regard to health. Your body has to work harder to cool down. You become dehydrated more quickly, usually because you're sweating, and you might even notice your heart rate quickening.

"Heat can be a huge stress on the body," says Andrea Smith, D.O., a family medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health System. "Heat illness, including heatstroke and heat exhaustion, is becoming increasingly common, especially among young athletes." And it's particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly and pregnant women.

Keeping It Cool

Summer heat and humidity can be oppressive. But you don't have to swelter in silence. These four strategies can help keep you cool during the dog days of summer:

  1. Stay hydrated. During the summer months, your body dehydrates more quickly as you sweat. Unfortunately, you can't rely on thirst. By the time you’re thirsty, you're already dehydrated. The best way to prevent complications from dehydration? Drink up! Keep a water bottle with you at all times and make sure to sip frequently throughout the day.
  2. Go beyond water. If you're exercising in the heat, make sure to take regular breaks. And if you're working out for more than one hour, consider a sports drink. Sweat also includes electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride. The idea is to drink and eat something that replaces those. "Just steer clear of sports drinks if you have diabetes," Dr. Smith says.
  3. Time your activities. Whether you're exercising outdoors or sunbathing by the lake, try to time your activities to avoid peak heat, between 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Evening or early morning practices are best. No matter when you're outdoors, make sure to take breaks from the sun and get out of the heat.
  4. Chill out. "Sweat-wicking clothing can help you keep cool," Dr. Smith says. If you're playing a game or participating in sports, you can use an icy washcloth or cold compress to help you cool down.

Watch for Warning Signs for Heat-Related Illness

Overheating can be deadly. Warning signs of heat illness range from confusion to rapid heartbeat, so it's important to pay attention to how you're feeling when you're spending time outdoors.

Common signs and symptoms of heat-related illness include:

"In the early stages, heat exhaustion can produce only mild symptoms," Dr. Smith says. You might feel weak and dehydrated. Heatstroke, on the other hand, is much more serious and can cause a person to lose consciousness.

Most important, know the signs that require immediate attention — vomiting and confusion should send you to the emergency room. Feeling hot and nauseous, even after lying down in a cool environment and elevating your feet? Reach out to your healthcare provider or visit the nearest emergency room.


Want more health and wellness advice? Subscribe to our newsletter to get all the latest tips. To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Andrea Smith is a family medicine physician, seeing patients of all ages at Henry Ford Medical Center - Detroit Northwest.

Categories: FeelWell