Tips to Stay Cool and Beat the Heat this Summer

beachsunSummertime means swimming pools, sunbathing and the occasional trip to the beach. It also means hot temperatures - sometimes bordering on unbearable. Not only is the heat uncomfortable for many people, but it can downright deadly for some, including young children and the elderly.

Your body has to work hard daily to maintain your standard body temperature. The extreme heat forces your body to work much harder than normal to maintain the right temperature, which can often have a negative effect on your overall health, and lead to heat-related illnesses. Basically, the hot sun on a summer day forces your body to work beyond its normal limits. Excessive heat can also lead to poor air quality, making it more difficult for your body to take in oxygen and potentially having a negative effect on your health.

Suburn, Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke

Some of the more common heat-related illnesses include basic sunburn and heat exhaustion. Sunburn is caused by prolonged and unprotected exposure to the sun. Heat exhaustion, meanwhile, manifests itself through muscle pain and weakness, often as a result of overexertion in hot temperatures. Both have fairly simple treatments, typically revolving around cooling down the body or affected area. But in both cases, prolonged exposure to the sun can potentially lead to much more dangerous conditions.

Heat stroke is a life threatening condition in which the body's temperature control system shuts down completely, and can often be tied to prolonged exposure to the hot sun. This heat-related illness can lead to brain damage and eventually organ shutdown. If it sounds serious, that's because it is! It is imperative to cool down a heat stroke victim immediately and seek professional help right away. Heat stroke is typically more common with the elderly over the summer months, but can affect anyone.

There are many different ways to combat the heat the summer months, many of which are quite simple. Here are some of the easiest ways to beat the heat and stay cool this summer:

Protect yourself from the sun

Prolonged exposure to the sun is the root cause of a variety of heat-related illnesses. Always use sunscreen when you know you'll be outside for a prolonged period of time. Wear a hat to lessen sun exposure to your face and neck - two spots extremely vulnerable to contact with the sun. Don't be afraid of the shade on hot afternoons. Taking a break from direct exposure to sunlight can help your body stay cooler for longer.

ac12000emediumDress appropriately

Loose fitting clothing is another key for staying comfortable and cool throughout the summer months. This is of the utmost importance if you regularly exercise outdoors. Lighter clothing provides the body more ventilation, allowing it to cool off easier, while tighter, heavier clothes have the opposite effect. As a general rule of thumb, the more comfortable you feel while out in the sun, the better dressed you are for the hot weather.

Prepare your home

Getting your home prepared for the heat is one of the most important steps in staying safe during the summer. First and foremost, make sure your home is equipped with a cooling device. Whether you have central air conditioning or a small portable air conditioner you take with you from room to room, make sure the unit works properly before it gets too hot. An electric fan can also make a difference if air conditioning is unavailable. Additionally, be sure to cover windows that receive prolonged exposure to the sun, especially during midday and afternoon hours when the sun is at its peak.

glass-of-waterEat smart

Just as your body has to work to maintain an even temperature, it also has to work to break food down into energy. Large meals take longer to break down. Eating smaller and lighter meals can help relieve your body of this additional work by being much easier to metabolize. Not to mention it's also healthier for you. You also may want to limit your alcohol intake, as it too requires more work from your body. Obviously be sure to drink plenty of water as well.

Limit strenuous activity and exercise

Your body works hard enough during the hot days that adding strenuous exercise or labor can be detrimental. Try working out earlier or later in the day. Planning around the hottest time of the day can help to limit exposure to the heat and can be much easier on your body. Take frequent breaks when possible if you have to work outdoors.

Learn some basic first aid

Each of the different illnesses and conditions that affect people during the summer has its own recommended treatment. Learn some of the basics to treating these different conditions to ensure your safety as well as others'. Being prepared to care for someone suffering from heat exhaustion or even heat stroke can make a big difference - and may even save their life.

Check on your friends and family

The heat can be especially difficult on young children and the elderly, so make sure to check regularly on your family, friends and neighbors during hot spells. Often heat-related issues arise before you have a chance to ask for help. This is especially important in the event of a power outage, in which most electric cooling devices shut down.

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