Ann Busche: Cooler by the lake
Summer is officially here, accompanied by long days of daylight, class reunions, family gatherings, mosquitoes, and -- with any luck -- warm sunny days. We'll most likely even get some days that can only be described at "hot."...
Summer is officially here, accompanied by long days of daylight, class reunions, family gatherings, mosquitoes, and -- with any luck -- warm sunny days. We'll most likely even get some days that can only be described at "hot."
Our beautiful Lake Superior can offer natural air conditioning depending on which way the wind is blowing. However, on those hot and humid days -- and particularly when they last for several days in a row -- care should be taken to stay healthy.
When your body gets hot, it tries to cool itself through sweating, which causes you to lose water and salts. If you don't put enough fluids back into your body, you get dehydrated. Certain medications that cause your body to lose water can accelerate dehydration on hot days. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dry skin, fatigue, light headedness, confusion, dry mouth, increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and less frequent urination.
It's important to drink fluids such as water, juice or sports drinks during hot weather.
Heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be a result of not giving your body a break from the heat, or exercising strenuously during hot weather. Heat exhaustion is not generally considered life threatening, but heat stroke is life threatening. Watch for these symptoms if you think someone might be suffering from heat exhaustion: headache, blurred vision, upset stomach, vomiting, sluggishness or fatigue, thirst, profuse sweating, and a moderate increase in body temperature.
Children, seniors, outdoor workers, and sports enthusiasts are most susceptible to heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms are headache, dizziness, agitation or confusion, sluggishness or fatigue, seizures, hot dry skin, increased body (inner) temperature, loss of consciousness, rapid heart beat, and hallucinations.
While children under the age of four, elderly adults, and those taking certain medications may be most at risk for heat related illnesses, anyone can be affected. So, on those days when our lake doesn't keep us cool, we can do the following:
- Take frequent breaks when outside working or playing.
- Wear light weight clothing. Wear light colored clothing and hat to reflect the heat of the sun away.
- Slow down your physical activity level, particularly when the sun is most intense from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (there is a reason why people in warm climates take a siesta break).
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, but do not drink beverages with caffeine or alcohol as they accelerate the effect of heat stroke.
- Take a cool shower or bath, or join your kids in a run through the sprinkler!
- Go to a movie, shopping mall, public library or other public building that has air conditioning. Getting out of the heat, even for just a few hours, is good.
- Use a fan to provide comfort (but when temperatures are in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat related illnesses).
Source: Minnesota Department of Health Web site, www.health.state.mn.us
Remember to check on neighbors who may be elderly or have small children. And don't forget about the family pet. Make sure they always have access to water to drink, a shady spot, and never leave an animal (or a child) locked in a car even for short periods of time.
Enjoy our summer weather and stay cool.
And, if you take all the steps above to stay cool but still find yourself complaining about the heat, just remember in six months it'll be below zero. Then I'll be writing about ways to avoid frostbite ...
Ann Busche is the director of the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services. She can be reached at email@example.com or by calling (218) 726-2096.