Beat the Texas heat with these expert tips
Summer hasn’t “officially” arrived yet, and temperatures in Houston are expected to reach triple digits this week. This is not a heat indicator! As we experience extreme heat/humidity once again, a family medicine specialist at UT Physicians offers her tips on staying safe in the heat.
Heat safety tips
one thing Elena N. Zamora, MD, He says the most important thing to avoid heat illness is preparation.
“Heat exhaustion or heatstroke — it’s all preventable. You don’t realize how quickly you can become dehydrated,” she explained.
Some easy daily tips to keep in mind are:
- Avoid direct sunlight as much as possible
- Drink plenty of fluids, at least eight cups a day
- Do not go out during the hottest times of the day, usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Be aware of the expected air quality, especially for those with allergies or asthma
Skin safety is also very important to remember throughout the year. On cloudy or foggy days, a minimum of 15 sun protection factor (SPF) is acceptable. However, during times of intense activity in direct sunlight, it is recommended to continually reapply a higher sun protection factor (SPF).
Signs of a health emergency
Staying in the sun for too long can trigger your body to display obvious warning signs. Heat cramps are usually the first indicator of dehydration and are similar to the feeling of a charley horse. To overcome these annoying and dangerous cramps, Zamora advises drinking water, stretching exercises, and staying away from the heat.
The most serious physical response to excessive exposure to sunlight is heat exhaustion. Symptoms can include weakness, fatigue, headache, and nausea. People with heat exhaustion may also sweat profusely.
“Once someone has heat exhaustion, it’s important to get them out of the heat, take off their clothes, put ice packs on them, and push their fluid intake,” she said. “If there are fans available, it’s best to turn them on as well.”
The ultimate and most serious consequence of overexposure to the sun is heatstroke, which begins similar to heat exhaustion and then progresses to severe symptoms such as confusion, seizures, and coma. A pale or dry appearance can be a warning sign because this means a person’s sweat response is failing. Immediate medical attention is necessary with any of these symptoms.
For parents or caregivers of young children who are unable to express their discomfort, it is important to be on the lookout for symptoms — especially red or sticky skin, twitches, or confusion. Immunocompromised individuals or those taking certain medications should also consider reducing their exposure to sunlight as it may worsen their disease(s). There are many medications that reduce the patient’s sweat response.
So, whether you’re doing yard work, at the pool, or at a water park this summer, listen to your body and be attentive to others.
“Heat exhaustion can also affect a person’s judgment, so when you’re in a public place, take a moment to look out for others who may be at risk for heat-related illness,” Zamora said. “This simple act can save a life.”