Tips to Keep Your Cool in the Heat

Tips to Keep Your Cool in the Heat

[This article was written with Dr. Mia Finkelston, a doctor on Amwell. Updated July 2020.]

Summer has arrived, and as temperatures increase it’s important to look out for heat-related illnesses. Whether you are playing in the backyard or soaking up the sun by the pool, it is possible to overheat if you are outside for a long time. Here are some tips on staying well during hot summer days from Amwell’s Medical Director Dr. Mia Finkelston:

  • Drink more water than usual and try not to wait until you are thirsty
  • Try to avoid liquids with caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar
  • Limit your outdoor activities to early morning and evening hours
  • Grab a bandana, soak it in water, and wrap it around your neck to keep cool
  • Always use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more
  • When going outside, wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing
  • Don’t leave anyone, including pets, in a closed parked car
  • If you are in direct sunlight, make sure to wear sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat and seek shade when UV rays are strongest (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • If you can’t keep cool in your home on a hot day, find other  places such as your local movie theatre, library, or mall

While anyone can suffer from a heat-related illness, the following people are the most at risk:

  • Infants and young children
  • People over the age of 65
  • People who work outdoors or in hot, poorly ventilated areas
  • People engaging in vigorous physical activity outdoors
  • People diagnosed with a chronic medical condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure

Keep in mind that some medications may increase your risk of heat-related illnesses. If you are not sure about your personal risk, now is a good time to talk with a doctor about how your medicine might affect you while being outdoors in the heat. 

It’s also important to remember that heat illnesses don’t look the same for everyone. It’s good to know your own limits and be able to recognize when you’re not feeling your best. Here are some signs to look out for:

Heat cramps

Heat cramps are associated with cramping in the abdomen, arms, and calves. These muscle spasms occur when your body loses large amounts of salt and water through exercise. Symptoms include:

  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Flushed, moist skin
  • A mild fever, usually lower than 102 degrees F

Dehydration

This is a condition that happens when your body does not have enough fluids. You’ll know you’re dehydrated if you are experiencing: 

  • A dry, sticky mouth
  • Lack of perspiration when you’re hot and would normally be sweating
  • Sleepiness or tiredness
  • Extreme thirst
  • Dry skin
  • Food cravings, especially for sweets

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion usually occurs after you've been exposed to high temperatures, and is a result of your body overheating. This condition is often accompanied by dehydration and: 

  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Pale, moist skin
  • Fever, usually higher than 102 degrees F
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache, fatigue, and feeling faint

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is a medical emergency and life-threatening condition. It occurs when the body is no longer able to regulate temperature. Heatstroke is your body's way of telling you it is " too hot and can't cool down". Symptoms of heatstroke include: 

  • Fever, usually higher than 104 degrees F
  • Warm, dry skin
  • Dizziness, confusion, nausea, or a rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache, fatigue, confusion, and lethargy

Whether it’s heat cramps, dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke, get support if you start experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above. Make sure to stop what you are doing, move to a cool, air-conditioned place, drink cool water, and rest for a few hours before returning to physical activities.

If you are still experiencing symptoms within 30 minutes of feeling ill, or you are unable to drink fluids, seek medical care. With Amwell, you can connect with a doctor via video in minutes from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Get more information about heat-related illness prevention and medical advice today. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911 or go to your local hospital.

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