The best way to avoid heat-related illnesses like heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke is to stay properly hydrated and the easiest way to check that is by the color of your urine. Here’s a handy chart.
Anything below the red line means you need to drink more water. DO NOT drink alcohol, coffee, soft drinks or anything that contains caffeine. Those beverages will actually dehydrate you more.
It’s also a good idea to be familiar with the symptoms and what to do if you or someone else becomes ill. Here’s some useful information from the American Red Cross.
Heat-Related Illness—Do You Know What to Do?
Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, can be problems for people enjoying outdoor activities or working outside in the hot summer months. Those most susceptible to heat related illnesses are children, the elderly, and people working or exercising in a hot environment. A heat-related illness occurs when the body is not able to regulate and control its temperature. As the air temperature rises, your body stays cool by letting heat escape through the skin and by evaporating sweat (perspiration). On hot, humid days, the evaporation of sweat is slowed by the increased moisture in the air. When the body isn’t cooled properly, your body temperature rises, and you may become ill. If left untreated, a heat-related illness can lead to serious complications, even death. However, most heat-related illnesses can be prevented.
What are heat cramps?
Heat cramps are the least severe and often are the first signals that the body is having trouble with the heat. Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms that result from overheating. They usually occur in the legs and abdomen.
How do I give care for heat cramps?
To care for heat cramps, have the person rest in a cool place. Give them cool water or a commercial sports drink. Usually, rest and fluids are all the person will need to recover. Lightly stretch the muscle and gently massage the area. Do not give the person salt tablets or salt water. They can make the situation worse.
What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that can develop after exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating and the sweat does not evaporate as it should.
Know the symptoms…
• Cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin
• Weakness or exhaustion
• Heavy sweating
What should I do if I think I have heat exhaustion?
If you think you have heat exhaustion, get out of the heat quickly. Rest in a cool, shady place and drink small amounts of cool water or other replenishing fluids. Loosen or remove clothing and apply wet cloths. Have someone call 9-1-1 if your condition does not improve, you are unable to drink water or you start vomiting. If heat exhaustion is not treated it can progress to a worse condition; heat stroke.
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke is the least common, but most severe heat-related illness. It results from the total failure of the body’s heat regulation system. This occurs when the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating system fails and the body cannot cool down. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It can cause permanent disability or even death.
Know the symptoms…
Red skin that can either be dry or moist
Changes in consciousness
Rapid, weak pulse
Rapid, shallow breathing
What should I do if I think someone has heat stroke?
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. If you think someone might have heatstroke, have someone call 9-1-1 right away. Move the person to a cool, shady place. Loosen or remove any unnecessary clothing and help cool him or her down. Apply wet cloths and fan the person. If the person is conscious, give them small amounts of cool water to drink (about 4 ounces every 15 minutes). Refusing water, vomiting, and changes in consciousness mean that the person’s condition is getting worse. Call 9-1-1 immediately, if you haven’t already done so.
If you have to be outside, also remember to apply sunscreen every two hours to avoid sunburn.