In case you haven’t already received the memo, it’s hot out there. In fact, a dangerous heat wave is expected to affect more than half the country this Fourth of July holiday. Some places in the eastern part of the country will even reach temperatures as high as 110 degrees. If you don’t take care of yourself in this heat, it can get deadly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “extreme heat” as temperatures that are much hotter or more humid than average. Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, usually happen when your body isn’t able to properly cool itself. When your body temperature rises faster than it cools, your brain and other vital organs can be damaged.
As RealSelf dermatologist Dr. Michele Green told HelloGiggles, common signs of heat stroke are a high body temperature, a lack of sweat or an abundance of sweat, confusion, aggression, agitation, trouble walking, a pounding headache, reddening of your skin, an elevated heart rate, and trouble breathing.
The good thing is, there are a few pretty easy things you can do to minimize your risk of a heat-related illness during this period of extreme heat.
If you have a hard time remembering to stay hydrated throughout the day, there are apps and even smart water bottles, such as DrinkUp or Hydrate Spark 2.0 Smart Water Bottle, that can keep you on track.
Dr. Green said that consuming Gatorade, coconut water, or other electrolyte-infused water can help replenish electrolytes lost from excessive sweating. Drinks with electrolytes can help your body to absorb water more quickly and prevent dehydration.
As far as what to wear, cardiologist Dr. Jennifer Haythe told us your best bet is to don light, breathable fabrics and a hat — and don’t forget your sunscreen.
If you’re taking certain medications, a spokesperson from American Family Care, an urgent care provider, told HG that it’s important to ask your doctor how your prescriptions could react to severe heat. Some medications, including beta blockers that blood pressure patients often take, can make it difficult for a person to regulate their body temperature. Over-the-counter meds for colds and allergies can also make it difficult for you to sweat, which is problematic when you need to cool your body down.
For you pet owners out there, be mindful of your pet’s safety in this heat as well. “While it is hard to tell when your pet does not feel well or may be getting overheated, keep an eye out for possible heat stroke in your pet and see a vet immediately,” Dr. Kurt Venator, chief veterinary officer at Purina, told HelloGiggles. Symptoms may include heavy drooling or panting, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, weakness, and dark or red gums and tongue.
In extreme heat conditions, Dr. Venator said it’s important to check the pavement to see if it’s too hot for your pet. Watch the exercise, provide plenty of shade and water, and offer cool treats, such as watermelon. Of course, never leave your pet in the car.
Although heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, the CDC states that over 600 people in the United States die because of extreme heat every year. That’s more than any other weather-related hazard, including tornadoes, lightning, and floods. As CNN reports, a Pennsylvania woman recently died a heat-related death while working in her garden. Two more possible heat-related deaths are being investigated in Kansas City, Missouri.
If you need more information on how to have a safe summer, the American Red Cross has a free app that’s available for you to use. The Red Cross Emergency App monitors severe weather and provides you with emergency alerts, including ones for excessive heat watches, warnings, and heat advisories.
You should be enjoying all the fun, outdoorsy things that are only offered in the summer. But it’s also extremely important to take care of yourself. So be safe out there. The heat can be extremely dangerous.