Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

June 25, 2013

Beat the Heat: Summer fun requires precautions to stay safe

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Summer fun can easily be ruined when one fails to take proper precautions to protect oneself from sun and heat.

“Being prepared and knowing what to look for ahead of time can keep a fun time from becoming a tragedy,” said Public Health Clinical Coordinator Cheryl Hill. “Things like if you're going outside, take along sunscreen and use it, and be sure to take plenty of water with you to help keep you hydrated, because it takes your body time to recuperate from things like heat exhaustion.

“I would urge that if you have any signs (of heat-stress related conditions), at the very first sign, don't ignore it, but sit down. Drink plenty of fluids. Because it can get serious fast,” she said.

The National Weather Service website, noaa.gov, offers a “Summer Weather Safety and Survival” page that describes various heat disorders and their symptoms.

For example, sunburn results in redness of skin and pain, with possible swelling, blisters, fever or headaches, while heat cramps are painful spasms often occurring in leg and abdominal muscles, as well as heavy sweating.

Heat exhaustion, according to the site, also entails heavy sweating, with the added symptoms of weakness, cold or pale, clammy skin, a weak pulse even if a person's body temperature reads normal. Fainting and vomiting also are likely.

Heat stroke (also called sun stroke) has symptoms of high body temperatures (106˚ F and higher); hot, dry skin and a strong, rapid pulse. There possibly may be unconsciousness and a victim will not likely sweat, the NWS site says. This condition warrants immediate medical attention, it adds.

“People need to be prepared for the summer heat, and to plan smart,” Hill said. “Limit your time in the direct sun and plan your activities to a time of day when it's not too hot – such as the early morning hours or in the late evening.

“Know to avoid the peak heat of the day. Watch for heat advisories, especially if you're planning a trip.”

Other tips, courtesy of the NWS site, for ensuring a safe summer while dealing with high temperatures include:

• Dress for the heat by wearing loose-fitting clothes. W

ear something that cover as much skin as possible that reflects heat and sunlight, but also helps maintain normal body temperatures.

• Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brim hat or cap.

• Rehydrate with water and natural juices, even if you don't feel thirsty.

“Even under moderately strenuous outdoor activity, the rate your body can absorb fluids is less than the rate it loses water due to perspiration,” ac-cording to the site.

• Avoid alcoholic beverages and those with caffeine – like tea, coffee and cola – because these constrict blood vessels near the skin, “reducing the amount of heat the body can release. Although (these beverages) appear to satisfy thirst, they actually cause (increased) dehydration.”

• Eat smaller meals more often.

• Avoid leaving children and animals inside a closed vehicle, even if it for a short while.

“Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach 140˚-190˚F within 30 minutes on a hot, sunny day,” according to the site.