Keeping Safe When It’s Hot Outside
If you’re like I am, you enjoy nothing better in summer than camping or picnicking by the water, taking a lakeside hike, or spending a day on the boat—fishing, cruising, taking an occasional swim in the water.
But when temperatures soar, it’s not always safe to be outside.
How Do You Know When Hot Is Too Hot?
As you plan your fun in the sun, be sure to check local weather forecasts, and pay special attention to the heat index in your area.
The heat index indicates the temperature you feel as the result of heat and humidity.Some weather sites and meteorologists call this the "real feel."
Unsure of the heat index in your area? If you know the temperature and the humidity level, you can calculate it yourself at the National Weather Service’s website, NOAA.
The NOAA website includes an easy-to-use heat index calculator that allows you to simply key in the temperature and the humidity level (real or predicted) for your area in order to generate the heat index number.
The accuracy of the results, of course, depend upon the accuracy of the data you input. You should also keep in mind that the heat index goes up when you’re in direct sunlight (standing on the deck of your boat, fishing from your kayak, flipping burgers over a campsite grill, etc.)
If the heat index hits80 or above, it’s wise to be cautious outdoors, whether you’re working or playing outside. If it’s at 103 or above, the combined heat and humidity is at a dangerous level, and you’d be well advised to cancel any outdoor plans that you have for the day.
Enjoying the Heat
Many of us who love summer opt to spend time outside even when the heat index is high. We like the heat.
But liking summer weather doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect its power by taking safety precautions in order to avoid heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and other sun-related dangers.
For the most part, staying safe in the sun is easy. Just drink frequently, eat frequently, and rest frequently. (Hey—that sounds like a vacation!)
And don’t forget to put on your comfy clothes. Loose-fitting, light-colored clothing is best. The light color reflects the sun’s rays, helping you stay cooler, and the loose fit allows air to circulate around your skin, helping sweat to evaporate. And that will help you stay cool, too.
Staying hydrated means drinking fluids before you head outside as well as throughout the day, not just when you feel thirsty.
Fill your cooler, camelback or canteen with clean, fresh water, and avoid alcoholic and/or caffeinated beverages like beer, cola, tea, and coffee that act as diuretics, depleting your body of fluids.
Also, keep your energy levels up by stopping frequently for small, light "meals" — a piece of fruit, a protein bar or shake, a handful of trail mix.
And whatever you do, don’t overdo it! Rest. Relax. Take regular breaks.
Hot days are not the right days to set records for greatest distance hiked or fastest row time. So slow down!
Signs Your Body Has Had Enough
According to the Red Cross, heat cramps are one of the early signs of heat stress. When the muscles in your belly and/or legs start to spasm or cramp, it’s time to get out of the sun and have a good, long drink of plain water or several swigs of sports drink in order to restore the fluids in your body as well as the electrolytes.
Signs of heat exhaustion are more serious and include nausea, headache, weakness and dizziness, and heavy sweating. Get out of the heat fast and cool down. Sit in front of a fan. Remove or loosen your clothing, apply cool water to your skin, and drink small amounts of water slowly.
If your symptoms are really severe, you may have to have a buddy do these things for you. And if you can’t bear to swallow, start to vomit, or lose consciousness, your friend should immediately call for help.
A sunstroke is even more dangerous than heat exhaustion. In fact, it’s a life-threatening condition in which your body is unable to cool itself. Victims of sunstroke (also called heatstroke) often vomit, feel hot to the touch, and go in and out of consciousness. The Red Cross recommends giving sunstroke victims the same care as you would heat exhaustion victims—and, of course, calling immediately for medical help.