Health News

Sun Safety Tips

According to the EPA, Americans spend 93% of their life indoors. This means that only about 12 hours a week are spent outside our offices, cars, and homes. While it’s no doubt great to get outside, there are precautions that we need to take to stay safe in the sun and heat.

Sun Safety Tips

Spending time outdoors is a great way to get needed exercise, boost immunity, build up Vitamin D levels, and also breathe in fresh air. But it can also make us more susceptible to the heat and rays of the sun, exposing us to sunburns and heat-related illnesses.

The Need for Sun Safety
Every year, 2,800 Americans are hospitalized for heat stress illnesses and related complications. On average, about 200 people die every year from preventable heat-related deaths. Studies show that adults over the age of 65 are more likely to let their condition worsen to the point that they need hospitalization.

Heat stress illness and deaths usually occur in the most vulnerable populations. These include children, the elderly, athletes, outdoor workers, and people with chronic health conditions or taking certain medications. While heat-related illness can happen at any time of the year, we are more susceptible in the summer months as temperatures climb into the higher digits. Additionally, individual circumstances can play a major role in whether a person experiences heat-related illness. It’s especially important to take preventative measures to protect vulnerable populations, while also ensuring that they have access to life-saving treatments if needed.

General Sun Safety
It’s important to wear light and loose clothing made of natural fibers like silk, cotton, and linen when outdoors. Rehydration plans are also important in cooling the body and replenishing fluids lost through sweat due to heat and physical activity.

Staying in the shade and out of direct sun between 10 AM and 2 PM can also lessen the risk for heat stress illness.

Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Keep Cool
One of the most important considerations for preventing heat related illness is to ensure that you have the ability to stay cool. In an extreme weather event, one cannot rely on ceiling fans to keep cool. In most warm climates, air conditioning is a requirement to bring the indoor air temperature down to a safe and tolerable level.

Avoid Over-Exertion
Vulnerable populations are more likely to over exert themselves by going past the point that they probably should have taken a break. Parents and caregivers need to pay close attention to children and older adults to make sure that they take frequent breaks to cool off, rehydrate, and refuel.

Avoid Over Exertion

It is also especially important for athletes to exercise in groups. This ensures that their exercise partners and teammates can keep an eye on them and keep a watch for symptoms of over-exertion and heat exhaustion.

Stay Hydrated
Water is essential for our body and keeps all systems functioning optimally. When we get dehydrated due to illness, heat, or excessive sweating, our bodies don’t work as well or cool down as efficiently. Therefore it’s of the utmost importance to stay properly hydrated. Remember to drink electrolyte-replenishing beverages before you get thirsty, instead of waiting until you are thirsty to drink.

Signs and symptoms

Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is the first sign of heat-related illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signs and symptoms can include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

If you notice the presence of any of these symptoms, move the person to a cooler location immediately – preferably somewhere with air conditioning. Loosen their clothing and apply cool damp cloths to the body. Also give them sips of water if they are thirsty. If vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a potentially life-threatening event that is also considered a medical emergency. If you suspect that anyone is experiencing heat stroke, call 911 and get them to the nearest medical center immediately.

The characteristic symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • High body temperature above 103°F (104°F taken rectally is the most accurate).
  • Hot, red, dry or moist skin
  • Rapid and strong pulse
  • Possible unconsciousness

If signs and symptoms of heat stroke are apparent, call 911 and move the person to a cooler environment. Do not try to give water unless instructed to by medical personnel.

Unfortunately, heat illness can escalate to heat stroke suddenly and as a progression of heat exhaustion. If a person is not doing better after 30 minutes of assistance with heat exhaustion, or if their condition worsens and they start vomiting or become unconscious, call 911 immediately.

The treatments for heat exhaustion and heat stroke are focused on getting the victim cool, rehydrated, and stabilizing their condition under constant supervision. Milder heat-related illnesses such as cramps, fainting, and exhaustion can often be treated on-site by moving the victim to a cooler environment and rehydrating.

With some preventative measures, and careful monitoring of those in our care, we can work together to reduce the number of heat illness hospitalizations each year while still getting outdoors to have fresh air and fun.