Avoiding heat-related illnesses

dog with fan - smallMonthly Safety Tip from your Black Hawk College Safety Committee

With summer approaching and the temperatures rising, more people will be outside and more active. Below are some safety tips to help you avoid heat-related illnesses.

  • Stay inside or seek a cooler place to stay. The hottest hours of the day are typically from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. If possible, stay inside an air-conditioned building, even for just a few hours. It’s one of the best ways to prevent heat exhaustion. If your home doesn’t have an air conditioner, consider spending time at a library or shopping mall. At the very least, find a well-shaded spot.
  • Use a fan. Fans alone aren’t adequate to counter high heat and humidity. Place your fan so that it blows in the room and out the window and not in front of the window as it may pull hot air in. Consider keeping your blinds and curtains closed from morning until late afternoon to block extra direct heat from sunlight.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and cotton colored clothing. Excess or tight clothing holds in heat and doesn’t let your body cool properly because it inhibits sweat evaporation. Darker colors in cotton fabric provide better protection against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays than lighter tones, new research indicates. Scientists in Spain say people should “think blue or red” when choosing clothing, because the darker hues on cotton fabrics offer better skin protection against the sun.
  • Avoid sunburn. If you’re going to be outdoors, remember to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin as a sunburn will reduce your body’s ability to eliminate itself of heat.  Consider wearing a lightweight, wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated helps your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature. According to the Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stress page provided by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, when temperatures climb above 90 degrees, it’s important to drink at least a gallon of liquid per day, preferably water. Those who are overweight and in humid conditions need even more.
  • Avoid certain beverages. Caffeine, carbonated and alcoholic beverages should be avoided as they can lead to dehydration.
  • Take extra precautions with certain medications. Ask your physician or pharmacist if your prescribed medication will make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion. If so, find out what you can do to keep your body from overheating. If you’re under orders to limit your fluid intake due to medications you have been prescribed, ask your physician what you should do when temperatures rise.
  • Avoid hot spots. On a hot day, the temperature in your parked car can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Let your car cool off before you drive it. Never leave anyone or a pet in your parked car for any length of time in hot weather.
  • Let your body acclimate to the heat. If you travel to somewhere hot, or the temperatures suddenly jump in your area, it can take several weeks for your body to get used to the heat. Be sure to take precautions. Move your exercise routine to early morning or late evening where the heat would be more tolerable. If you’re on vacation, you probably don’t have several weeks to wait, but it’s a good idea to wait at least a few days before attempting vigorous activity in the heat.

It’s best not to exercise or do any strenuous activity in hot weather, but if you must, follow the same precautions and rest frequently in a cool spot. Taking breaks and replenishing your fluids during that time will help your body regulate your temperature.





Disclaimer: These tips have been provided as general information for increasing safety awareness and for informational purposes only. Black Hawk College does not accept any liability for the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) that is provided. We make every effort to insure the integrity and validity of the data provided. Always, check with your care provider before making any changes.