Sun exposure can be fatal for some.
You’ve been outside for hours under the blazing sun, and you start feeling woozy. Should you just tough it out? You might worry that you’d be “making a scene” or being a burden to everyone if asked for help. Here’s the problem: Heat-related illness can be serious, so taking action to prevent heat stroke could save your life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the individuals who are most vulnerable to heat-related illness are:
- Infants and children up to four years old
- People who have certain chronic conditions, such as heart disease
- Those who are overweight due to the tendency to retain body heat
- People taking certain medications
- Adults aged 65 and higher
- Athletes and outdoor workers
That said, heat-related illness can happen to anyone. For this reason, it’s important for people of all ages to take steps to prevent heat stroke.
How to Prevent Heat Stroke
Heat stroke can be dangerous, but even mild heat-related illness can affect your health. Here are tips to be proactive against heat-related illness—or what to do if you start feeling unwell in the heat:
1. Avoid outdoor activities during the hottest times of the day
Plan your activity for cool mornings or evenings, especially if you’re doing something active, like jogging. Be cautious from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when temperatures tend to be hotter and ultraviolet rays are stronger.
2. Take steps to avoid sunburn
Sunscreen doesn’t just help you avoid sunburn and skin cancer: It can also help you stay cooler. Sunburn can worsen dehydration, and it also limit’s your body’s ability to cool off.
Apply sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher, wear a wide-brimmed hat, and seek shade.
3. Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing
Pick clothing with loose and “breathable” fabric, which makes it easier to stay cool. This is not the time to put on your tightest pair of jeans.
4. Drink plenty of water
You’ve probably heard that it’s important to stay hydrated when you’re out on a hot and sunny day. Water is the best option, but you can also get fluids from hydrating foods like watermelon or apples. However, avoid sugary and alcoholic drinks, which make your body lose more fluid.
Psst … Make sure pets and young children stay hydrated, too. (Here are signs of heat stroke in dogs.)
5. Find air-conditioned places to cool off
If you have a long activity planned on a hot day, schedule a break where you can get away from the heat. If you’re near home, you can just go inside. However, if you’re out and about (or you don’t have air conditioning at home), you can still find relief by visiting a mall, public library, restaurant, or shop.
If you know it’s going to be a really hot day, you may want to opt for indoor activities with air conditioning instead.
6. Take breaks when necessary
Don’t push yourself if you’re starting to have symptoms of heat-related illness, including:
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Heavy sweating
- Fast pulse
Muscle cramps are often the first sign of heat-related illness. They may not seem like a big deal at the time, but intervening can help prevent heat stroke and keep you safe in the sun.
If you have any questions about your own risk of heat stroke or heat-related illness, talk to your doctor. Knowing your risk factors can empower you to make better choices under the sun. Your doctor may also be able to provide great tips for protecting you and your family in the heat.
- Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control. (Accessed June 9, 2021).
- Infographic: Avoid Spot Treat: Heat Stroke & Heat Exhaustion. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control. (Accessed June 9, 2021).
- Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control. (Accessed June 9, 2021).
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Extreme Heat. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control. (Accessed June 9, 2021).