These common summer health hazards are more likely to affect people over the age of 65 and infants. Summer is a time to enjoy being outdoors and getting some sun, but you have to be careful. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 7,415 death due to heat-related illness in the United States from 1999 to 2010, or an average of approximately 618 death per year.
Why Heat Can be Dangerous
When your body works to cool itself under extreme or prolonged heat, blood rushes to the surface of your skin. As a result, less blood reaches your brain, muscles, and other organs. This can lead to serious danger. Here are common summer health hazards to watch out for.
Three Common Summer Health Hazards
Dehydration is the most common summer hazard that you’ll find. You can lose too much water because you are sweating and not replacing the lost liquid by drinking. If you’re dehydrated, one of the first signs you’ll notice is that your head aches. You may have muscle cramps, feel dizzy, weak and confused. You may even faint.
What to do
Drink plenty of water and, if possible, sports drinks. Sports drinks contain important salts called electrolytes. Your body loses electrolytes when you’re dehydrated. Electrolytes help to regulate your heartbeat. If you feel better after drinking fluids, but have a medical condition or take diuretics (“water pills”), you should also call your healthcare provider for a follow-up.
Heat exhaustion happens when the body loses large amounts of water and salt through excessive sweating. Body temperature rises to between 98.6°F (37°C) and 104°F (40°C). Watch out for heat exhaustion if you’re working hard outside or playing plenty of sports. This loss of essential fluids can disturb circulation and interfere with brain function. Here are some signs of heat exhaustion:
- heavy sweating or no sweating
- muscle cramps
- cold or clammy skin
- nausea or vomiting
What to do
Move to a cool, shady place and drink plenty of water or sports drinks.
This is the most serious of the heat-related illnesses. It happens when your body is exposed to intense heat for a long time and loses the ability to cool itself. Basically it means that the part of the brain that normally regulates body temperature has malfunctioned. Your body sweats less and cannot cool down sufficiently. Heat stroke can be deadly if the body temperature rises gradually over a few days. Here are some signs of heat stroke:
- body temperature reaches 104°F (40°C) or higher
- red, hot, dry skin
- rapid pulse
Heat stroke is a more dangerous health condition than heat exhaustion because a person suffering from heat stroke can die. The body’s core temperature can become so high that his brain or internal organs are damaged.
What to do
Move to a cool, shady place and take off or loosen heavy clothing. Douse yourself with cool water or put cloths soaked with cool water on your wrists, ankles, armpits, and neck to lower your temperature. Drink water or sports drinks.
See here for more outdoor safety tips.