Beat the Heat: Essential Tips for Staying Safe and Healthy this Summer

Summer has only just begun, and we’re already experiencing dangerously hot weather.  High temperatures can lead to many illnesses, including heat exhaustion and stroke.  At least 2,300 deaths in the United States in 2023 are believed to have been heat-related.  With this summer expected to be another hot one, health professionals at Missouri Ozarks Community Health have some tips to help you and your family stay healthy.

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion is a condition that happens when your body overheats.  Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, heavy sweating, elevated body temperature and decreased urine output.  The elderly, people with high blood pressure and those working out in the summer heat are most at risk of developing heat exhaustion.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness.  “So, if you take your run-of-the-mill heat exhaustion, where you might feel a little nauseous, but you’re not really overheating, and you keep going, you don’t get out of the sun, you don’t drink water, you don’t get care, your temperature could go high as if you have a fever,” said Dr. Joshua Wolfe, medical director at Missouri Ozarks Community Health. “And that can lead to a brain injury or even death.”  Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, hot and dry skin, a loss of consciousness, very high body temperature, seizures, and excessive sweating.  If someone begins showing those symptoms, it’s important to call 911 for emergency care.

Staying Safe in the Summer Heat

To stay healthy during the summer season, it’s important to know the signs of a heat-related illness.  Stay in the air conditioning as much as possible and wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes.  Cut down on outdoor activities when it is hot.  And, of course, drink lots of water.  Dr. Joshua Wolfe said it is important to listen to your body.  “Our bodies tell us when you touch something hot, that it hurts,” said Dr. Wolfe.  “If your body feels sick and tired, it’s a good time to rest.  When you feel thirsty, it’s that you’re overdue to drink water.  And if you’re getting hot and sweaty, that’s your body trying to tell you to get under some shade and take it easy.  So, pay attention to those signs and be extra mindful of older family members, young children and others who are at higher risk.”

If you do not have air conditioning at your home, the state of Missouri does provide a map of the cooling centers in your city or county: https://data.mo.gov/Health/Missouri-Cooling-Centers-Map/2wki-9iz8

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Lacy Monteleone

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