How To Avoid Summer Heat-Related Illnesses

Protect yourself from the summer heat by knowing the symptoms of heat disorders.


Val Salinas

8/21/20233 min read

woman in brown sun hat lying on sand during daytime
woman in brown sun hat lying on sand during daytime

When summer temperature and humidity rise, so does our internal body temperature. Our bodies have a built-in cooling system that works through sweating, helping to prevent heat-related illnesses. However, during physical activities, our bodies may produce more heat, potentially leading to heat-related problems.

How dangerous is it to overheat in the summer months? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Heat-related deaths are one of the deadliest weather-related health outcomes in the United States.

The human body is about 70% water. Did you know our bodies lose water naturally through the urine, intestines, skin, and lungs? And when summer temperatures rise, so does our perspiration (sweating). It is vital to learn how to protect yourself from the summer heat.

Heat Cramps - are powerful muscle contractions that usually affect the abdomen and legs, and is caused by excessive salt loss, and can cause severe cramping or water during strenuous exercise or outdoor activities for an extended time in high temperatures.

Other symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, lethargy, and dehydration. Drinking a sports drink with electrolytes, resting in a more cooling environment, and eating a piece of food that contains potassium (banana) should allow heat cramps to subside within an hour. If not, seek medical attention.

Heat Exhaustion - caused by a single or a combination of prolonged periods of high heat exposure, humidity, strenuous activity, and dehydration. Heat exhaustion effects are more severe than heat cramps, and symptoms may include paleness, dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, and increased body temperature.

If you or someone is experiencing exhaustion, stop all activity, move to a cool area, rehydrate with cool water or sports drink, and apply cool compresses (ice water on the back of the neck). Get medical attention immediately when symptoms do not improve within an hour.

Heat Stroke - The most serious of the heat-related conditions. Strenuous exercise in hot conditions could lead to a Heatstroke or non-active individuals exposed to high temperatures long enough.

When your body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C), you are in the heatstroke zone. Left untreated, you can experience severe consequences such as damage to your brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and muscles.

Visual signs include a flushed face, red skin, vomiting and nausea, high body temperature, rapid heart rate, and sweating stops. More severe symptoms are deliriousness, unconsciousness, or seizures.

Quick medical attention is crucial if the person is experiencing a heat stroke, and Call 911 immediately. As you wait for medical attention, lowering the body temperature and getting fluids into the person as quickly as possible is imperative.

Stay Hydrated!

Pale yellow to clear urine, unless taking vitamins or medication, indicates your body is hydrated. When your urine is dark yellow, you are thirsty and experience a dry mouth (cottonmouth), these are clear signs of dehydration. Do not head out the door because your body is dehydrated.

Hydrate for a few hours to allow the fluids to absorb into your tissues, and drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Engaging in physical activity or participating in a sport lasting more than 60 minutes requires a sports drink to replace electrolytes lost during extreme sweating.

Be Smart And Be Prepare

Not accustomed to hot and humid weather, I recommend my clients to gradually add time and days when participating in outdoor fitness activities and check their urine first thing in the morning or 30-45 minutes before heading outdoors. Most importantly, it may take up to 14 days to adapt to the weather because of environmental factors and physical conditions.

Do not get caught off guard this summer by drinking plenty of water, wearing sunscreen, limiting your time during sun peak hours 10:00 am - 4:00 pm, letting your body acclimate to the rising temperatures, and exercising early in the morning. Also, wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing to keep your body cool through the summer months.

Be Smart, protect yourself from the summer heat, and do not fall victim this summer by knowing the symptoms of heat disorders and overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment and call 911.

I have experienced heat cramps and exhaustion several times, and paid the price mentally and physically. Take your time and exercise caution this summer to ensure your safety.