Now that summer has finally made its appearance, the temperatures have increased and the humidity and heat index make any day feel much hotter than it actually is. It’s the time of year when outdoor activities consume most of our time, and we’re able to soak up the sunshine we missed out on during colder months. To prevent heat-related illness and have fun all summer long, utilize the following safety tips.

Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. I can’t emphasize this enough! Heat illnesses can creep up unexpectedly, so it’s important to drink plenty of water and other fluids that will help your body stay hydrated. Warmer temperatures mean that we must drink even more than usual. It’s vital to hydrate before, during, and after any given activity or any time you spend in the heat. By consuming fluids frequently during the day, it’s much easier to stay on top of water intake. Keep a water bottle with you at all times during the day as a reminder and refill it as soon as it’s empty. Remember, beverages such as soda and some sports drinks don’t hydrate as well as plain old water. Challenge yourself to drink half your body weight in water ounces each day.

Plan Ahead. We don’t always have the option to stay inside when the temperatures are brutal, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t plan ahead. Make sure to wear light, loose-fitting clothing that is made with moisture-wicking material. Stake out a location with plenty of shade and lather up with sunscreen frequently throughout the day. Planning on eating while you’re out? Cold foods can help cool you down. If you find that you’re quickly overheating, try holding a cold water bottle on the back of your neck, between your wrists, or on the bottoms of your feet.

Family Activities. Summer is all about family time. Incorporate activities that will help you stay cool including swimming pools and splash pads. Family picnics and ice cream dates are great because they involve short amounts of time and limit the exposure to sun and temperatures. Physical activity is great for our health, but can quickly put us at risk in the heat. Try to plan strenuous activities in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest times of the day. Just remember, it’s important to pay close attention to yourself and others around you.

If you or others begin to show signs of heat-related illness, seek medical help immediately. Certain medical conditions may make you more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Consult your primary care provider if you are concerned about adverse reactions to extreme temperatures. If you don’t have a primary care provider, please call (309) 779-7979 and a UnityPoint Clinic team member can help you find a doctor that meets your needs.

Sayed Shah, MD, is a holistic medicine practitioner at Mandala Integrative Medicine.

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