When you live in Southern California, it can be easy to become less cautious when it comes to the heat. Being too comfortable with your weather environment can get you into big trouble when it comes to beating the heat. Since 1979, more than 7,000 Americans have died from heat related illness. Long Beach Memorial has some helpful tips and advice so you can enjoy the dog days of summer while being safe.
First of all, staying cool and safe is tough for everyone at this time of year. The heat affects people of all ages, but the people who are most susceptible to heat complications are young infants and children, middle-age people who have chronic medical conditions and seniors (65 and older).
Seniors are often on medications that impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration. Additionally, they lose their thirst drive as a normal part of aging so they may need to be coached to drink adequate fluids. Seniors need to be kept out of the heat and minimize outdoor activities to prevent overheating; as they may not be able to regulate their body temperature efficiently. Visiting your elderly loved ones, or just keeping an eye on them is key during this time of year as heat exhaustion or heat stroke can occur.
Successful prevention of heat-related illness and injury requires being aware of the potential for heat stress that can be caused by environmental conditions and taking the proper steps to adjust to higher temperatures during outside activities. Specific actions include:
1. Limiting Your Activity
- Parents and coaches should support efforts to restrict organized athletic activities and warn the public of danger when weather conditions pose a significant risk for heat injury.
- Recommended safety precautions include more hydration breaks, more frequent player substitutions during organized competition, ensuring a shaded area for rest, scheduling of practices or games earlier or later in the day when heat conditions lessen or canceling athletic activities when the risk of severe heat illness is too high.
- When activity is allowed, completing rest and a cool-down period after a period of strenuous exercise helps reduce the risk of increased heat strain during a subsequent exercise period in some children and young adults. Children who are currently ill or recovering from an illness should avoid or limit exercise.
2. Finding Creative Ways to Stay Cool
- Air conditioning is an expensive luxury that not everyone can afford, but that shouldn’t stop you from making your very own homemade air conditioning system. All you need to make your own homemade air conditioning system is a fan and a big bowl of ice. The wave of air from the fan will blow across the ice cubes and, as they melt, chilled air will spread and help cool off a small space, like a bedroom, kitchen or your favorite chair.
- Keep a spray bottle in the fridge and when you feel yourself overheating take it out and spray your chest and face with some cold water.
3. Hydration is Key
- Scheduled hydration breaks are very important in children and young adults during the hot months of summer because they are more likely to not fully replenish fluid losses during extended activity when dehydrated.
- Flavoring water by adding both carbohydrates and sodium chloride increases fluid intake by more than 90 percent versus offering unflavored water.
- A good way to know that you are hydrating properly is to compare pre- and post-activity dry weight. One rule of thumb is to consume eight ounces of fluid for every pound lost during your activity time. People who don’t hydrate properly increase the risk for heat illness.
- Cool, non-alcoholic beverages with low sugar levels are the best sources of hydration.
- Avoid coffee and alcohol as these types of drinks will cause more dehydration.
4. Clothing Matters
- Light colors can help reduce absorption of solar radiation.
- Lightweight, loose fitting materials allow for your body to breathe more and release perspiration to stay cool.
5. Getting Acclimated
- Getting acclimated to the heat provides the best protection against heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but this takes repeated exposures to heat. The number and duration of exposures necessary for acclimatization varies by age. For example, an older adolescent may become acclimatized after four successive days of limited heat exposure. In contrast, a young school age child typically needs up to 14 days to achieve the same acclimation point.
There are always going to be risks and obstacles at this time of year when it comes to dealing with the heat. We all enjoy the beautiful weather that comes with summer, but we also need to be mindful of the situations that come with it. It is a real risk, but as long as you are thoughtful, plan ahead and don’t underestimate it, then you will be able to safely enjoy the beautiful dog days of the Southern California summer.