(RxWiki News) It's summer, and that means sun and heat. If you aren't careful, the summer heat can lead to heat-related illnesses like heat stroke.
Heat-related illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope (marked by sudden dizziness after exercising in the heat), heat cramps and heat edema (marked by swelling of the feet and ankles when you get hot). All of these illnesses can be referenced as hyperthermia.
Although everyone may be at risk, some people face a higher risk of hyperthermia. For example, those who are 65 or older are at the highest risk. This is because the body becomes less able to adapt to heat as it ages. Others who are at risk include children younger than 2 and people with chronic diseases or mental illnesses.
Other factors that may increase your risk of hyperthermia include the following:
- Heart, lung and kidney problems
- High blood pressure
- Being very overweight or very underweight
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
Some medications also increase your risk of hyperthermia. These include diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and certain blood pressure and heart medications. Those who take multiple medications for multiple conditions may also be at risk for hyperthermia. Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications can put you at risk for a heat-related illness.
If you're at higher risk of developing hyperthermia, the following tips can help you stay safe this summer:
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. It is not safe to rely on a fan as your primary cooling device, especially during an extreme heat event. Instead, locate an air-conditioned shelter in the area, and go there if you need to.
- Instead of waiting until you feel thirsty to rehydrate, drink more water than usual if it's very hot outside.
- Avoid using a stove or oven to cook. The heat from these devices will make you and your house hotter.
- Develop a buddy system for periods of extreme heat. Check on a friend or neighbor, and be sure to have someone check on you.
Even young and healthy people can experience hyperthermia, especially if they exercise outside during the summer. Limit outdoor activity and schedule practices and activities earlier or later in the day, when the temperature is much cooler. In addition, pace yourself. Start slowly and increase the pace a little bit at a time.
Regardless of your age, the following tips can help you keep cool and healthy as the temperature rises:
- Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location as much as possible.
- Apply sunscreen as directed. For more information, read Sunscreen and Sun This Summer.
- Drink more water than usual, and don't wait until you feel thirsty to rehydrate.
- To cool down, try cool showers or baths.
- Opt for loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing.
- Do not leave children or pets in cars.
- Check the local news for health and safety updates related to the hot weather.