Have a plan
A big part of staying safe in the heat is having a good plan. Have a rough idea of how long you will be out in the sun and the heat, and then plan accordingly. Protect your eyes and skin and stay covered (wearing loose-fitting clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, etc.) and stay hydrated.
Moderating your exposure to heat goes beyond reapplying sunscreen and covering up. You will want to take extra steps to avoid being outside for long periods in the sun and heat, especially during the peak hours of strongest ultraviolet (UV) rays, during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In the hottest summer months, you will want to pay special attention that by 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., the morning heat may already be more taxing for the body than you might realize.
If possible, make sure that you have an air conditioned oasis where you can take refuge, so that you can get a break from the intense heat. In fact, having access to air conditioning is the number one protective factor for heat-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dehydration is another safety concern during the summer months. Be sure to drink enough liquids throughout the day, as our bodies can lose a lot of water through perspiration when it gets hot out. Drinking plenty of water — even beyond the goal of having eight-8 oz. glasses of water — can be part of good nutrition, too. Snacking on water-rich foods like raw fruits and vegetables can also help keep you hydrated.
Without enough fluids, you may experience dehydration. Look for these signs:
- Extreme thirst
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramping
- Feeling lightheaded
- Foggy thinking
The remedy for dehydration is to slowly reintroduce fluids to the body. Take your time, though, because gulping down water can cause stomach distress. Also, try to avoid alcoholic beverages, because they can ultimately add to your dehydration.
Handle with care
Keep an eye out for those most vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat. Be especially conscious of young children, older adults and pets that all tend to be more susceptible to the complications from dehydration and too much sun and heat. And, never leave children, older adults or pets in a car on a hot day — even with the windows cracked.
While most of the times you’ll only experience little to no effect from being out in the sun and the heat, there may be circumstances where you’ll need help. Here are a few situations to look out for:
- Heat cramps
- Dehydration can cause heat cramps, which are painful muscle spasms — usually in the legs and abdomen. Try to massage the muscle and start slowly consuming more liquid. If the person feels sick to his or her stomach or vomits, phone a medical provider immediately.
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat exhaustion is a serious condition caused by overexposure to hot weather conditions. A person with heat exhaustion usually feels weak and is perspiring heavily, while the skin tends to be cold and clammy. It’s important to get a person experiencing heat exhaustion out of the heat and preferably to an air conditioned area. You can give him or her sips of water to start the rehydration process, but if the person has fainted or vomited, seek immediate medical help.
- Heatstroke (or sunstroke)
- Unlike with heat exhaustion, people experiencing heatstroke have hot dry skin and a high body temperature — and they often have stopped sweating. Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention. You should phone emergency medical services by calling 9-1-1 and following the instructions that they give you. Do not give a person you suspect of having heatstroke any fluids.
The skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects YOU against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Yet, some of us don’t consider the necessity of protecting our skin from the effect of UV rays.
Protecting your skin
There are simple, everyday steps you can take to safeguard your skin from the effects of UV radiation from the sun.
Keeping everyone safe and sound while you enjoy frolicking in the water takes a little extra effort, but it’s certainly worth it. Remember to always have adult supervision for children. Whether they’re in the pool or playing in the sand at the seashore, having someone who can help them — should an emergency arise — is essential.
Swimming is an enjoyable way to both cool off and get some exercise. Water safety should be of prime importance and safety precautions should be taken to avoid injuries or accidents:
- Always supervise children when they’re around water.
- It’s always a good idea to use the buddy system when swimming — safer than swimming alone.
- Ensure that people who have difficulty swimming wear life jackets for boating and other water-related activities.
Take the eye-safety quiz on the right-hand column of this page to check your summer eye safety awareness.
When to wear protective eyewear
The Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) has standards that require employers to provide their workers with the appropriate eye protection. According to these standards, you (or anyone who is watching you do work) should always wear properly fitted eye protective gear, such as safety glasses with side protection/shields, when:
- Doing work that may produce particles, slivers, or dust from materials like wood, metal, plastic, cement, and drywall
- Hammering, sanding, grinding, or doing masonry work.
- Working with power tools
- Working with chemicals, such as common household chemicals including ammonia, oven cleaners, and bleach
- Using a lawnmower, riding mower, or other motorized gardening devices such as string trimmers (also called “weed whackers” or “weed whips”)
- Working with wet or powdered cement
- Welding (which requires extra protection like a welding mask or helmet to avoid exposure to sparks and UV radiation)
- “Jumping” the battery of a motor vehicle
- Being a bystander to any of the above
Sports eye safety
It’s also recommended that you protect your eyes from injury when participating in certain summer sports, including:
- Riding or being a passenger on a motorcycle
- Indoor racket sports
An important part of summer sports safety is prevention. There’s a tendency to say to ourselves, “Oh, I can do that,” which in many cases we can, but not without the possibility of injury. It helps to be conditioned to the activities in which we’re preparing to engage.
Warming and stretching
One thing that helps prepare the body for action is warming the muscles and joints through slow and steady movements that ready you for the types of movement that you’ll be performing. For example, if you’ll be doing a sport or activity that mainly requires your leg muscles, you can take a brisk 10-minute walk or jog in place to gets the blood flowing to your lower body. Once the body is warmed up, you can do some gentle stretches for the muscles and joints that you’ll be using.
Another consideration for summer sports safety is protective gear. If you are biking, roller skating, skateboarding, rafting, or taking part in any activity where you might be traveling at high speeds, always make sure you wear a helmet and other protective gear. Also, wear protective gear if you’re engaging in activities where you may slip or fall, like rock climbing. Don’t forget reflective clothing and lights for nighttime running and biking.
Go with a buddy
It’s probably smarter to avoid doing some riskier activities alone, like swimming, surfing, rock climbing, etc. So, be sure to have someone there who can call for help. There’s nothing like having backup from a buddy when you need it most.
Don’t forget to give your body a cool-down period after any physical activity — especially if it’s something intense or vigorous, like many summer sports activities. Do some gentle stretches for the larger muscles groups — legs, back, chest, shoulders, and arms. Make sure you take deep, relaxing breaths throughout your stretching routine and hold each stretch about 30 seconds or more.
Reap the Rewards of Summer Safety
Think safety first for all summertime fun. This gives you the reward of peace of mind while enjoying the beauty of the season and its many pleasant activities.