Rehab Insights is a weekly blog written by Burke Rehabilitation professionals to offer practical information for patients, families and the community. Its goal is to educate the reader on relevant topics in rehabilitation, general health and wellness.

How to Stay Safe When It’s Hot Outside

Now that summer’s in full swing, it’s time to get outside and enjoy the sunny, warm weather. But whether you’re starting a new activity, or getting back to your favorite summer traditions, the heat can put extra strain on your body, making it important to keep an eye out for the symptoms of dehydration and heat-related illnesses.

Dehydration is defined as an excessive loss of water from the body, and can be due to illness or exercise. When it’s hot outside you are likely to become dehydrated if you are not drinking enough water. According to the Mayo Clinic, if a person is dehydrated they may exhibit a dry sticky feeling mouth, excessive thirst, exhaustion, a lack of sweating even though it’s hot out, headache, or dizziness. It is important to recognize these signs and take a few simple steps to correct it.

If you are active and notice these symptoms, you should sit down, drink water or a sports drink (like Gatorade) and try to lower your temperature. If you don’t pat attention to these symptoms, dehydration may become more severe. In its more severe form, dehydration is characterized by extreme thirst, irritability, confusion, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fever, and possibly unconsciousness. You should contact a doctor immediately if you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms or severe diarrhea, vomiting, trouble keeping down fluids, disorientation, and extreme tiredness.

On extremely hot days, or if you over-exert yourself during exercise, you may experience heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. Heat cramps include muscle spasms and pain in your arms, legs, or abdomen. To treat this condition you should rest in a cool and shady area, drink water, and seek medical attention if the cramps persist for a few hours after rest.

Heat exhaustion symptoms can include cool, moist skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, thirst, irritability, and rapid heart rate. It is important to sit or lie down, drink plenty of water, use a cold compress and to seek medical attention if the symptoms persist for over an hour.

Heat stroke is the most serious condition of the heat illnesses. Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, fainting, seizures, excessive sweating (or lack of sweat), red, hot skin, and fever. Since this is a serious condition, immediately call 911. Then, go to a cool shady place, remove unnecessary clothing, use a fan and ice pack to cool off, drink water, and have someone stay with you until help arrives.

The good news is that you can protect yourself from dehydration and heat-related illnesses with a few simple steps:

  • Carry a water bottle while outdoors—and make sure you’re drinking it
  • Exercise in shady or cool places, and avoid direct sunlight
  • Dress for the weather! Light colors and thin fabrics can help you keep cool
  • If you know it’s going to be hot, carry a cold pack to cool yourself off

Stay active this summer, but most importantly stay safe!

 -- Anna Rubeo, Burke Community Wellness, Adult Fitness Center

"Dehydration." -  Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

"UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR." Heat-related Illnesses and First Aid. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, n.d. 


photo credit: via photopin (license)

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Burke's Rehab Insights blog is intended to provide general information about rehabilitation and other health care topics. It should not take the place of medical care. Burke staff cannot comment on individual medical cases or give medical advice.

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