Beat the Heat
Take Care of Yourself in Hot Weather
Summer in Florida can be overwhelmingly hot, even for long-time residents. Heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are illnesses that can overcome you when your body is unable to cool itself.
Tips for Staying Cool
- Slow down. Do strenuous activities at the coolest time of the day. At-risk individuals should stay in the coolest available place, which may not be indoors.
- Dress for summer. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.
- Do not get too much sun. Sunburn makes it harder for you to cool off.
- Drink water. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
(People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restrictive diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.)
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages. Alcohol dehydrates you.
- Spend more time in air-conditioned places.Spending some time each day in an air-conditioned environment can offer some protection.
- Never leave children or pets in a parked car.The temperature inside cars can rise to 135°F in less than ten minutes, which can kill children or pets. If you see a child or pet left unattended in a parked car, you should call 911.
Factors Leading to Heat Stress
Heat stress disorders develop when the body cannot shed excess heat. A variety of factors can come into play, but most heat-related illnesses share a common feature: a person has been overexposed to heat, or over-exercised, for his age and physical condition.
The chance for heat-related illnesses is greater when the following occur:
- High temperature and humidity.
- Activity in direct sun.
- Limited air movement or cooling.
- Physical exertion.
- Poor physical condition.
Some medications can also increase susceptibility to heat.
Symptoms of Heat-related Illnesses
- Painful muscle spasms, usually in legs, possibly abdomen.
- Heavy sweating.
- Headaches, dizziness, or fainting.
- Heavy sweating; cold, clammy skin.
- Irritability or confusion.
- Weakness, vomiting.
- Weak pulse.
- Can have a normal body temperature.
- Dry, hot skin with no sweating.
- Confusion, possible loss of consciousness or seizures.
- Rapid, strong pulse.
- High body temperature (106ºF or higher).
Treating Heat-related Illness
- Get out of the sun. Move the affected person to a cool, shaded area, preferably an air-conditioned room.
- Slow down and cool down. Lay the victim down and loosen or remove heavy clothing. Let him take sips of water if he is able*.
- Massage spasms. Firm pressure on muscles or gentle massage will help relieve spasms.
- Cool the skin. Fan and mist or sponge the person with water.
- Seek medical help. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Dial 911 or get the victim to a hospital as quickly as possible.
*Do not give a person fluids if he or she is nauseous and/or has continued vomiting. Seek medical help.
Adapted and excerpted from:
“Heat Stress Disorders,” UF/IFAS Disaster Handbook (1998).
“Heat Wave,” Florida Division of Emergency Management (rev. 9/2010).
“Protect Yourself: Heat Stress” (3.3MB pdf), OSHA (2010).