Health Beat: Keep your cool in hot weather

Tuesday, August 7, 2012
This boy took a break from playing to drink cool water from the park´s water fountain. (Amanda Mills ~ CDC)

Getting too hot can make you sick. You can become ill from the heat if your body can't compensate for it and properly cool you off. Heat exposure can even kill you: it caused 8,015 deaths in the United States from 1979 to 2003.

These are the main things affecting your body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather:

* High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won't evaporate as quickly, which keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.

* Personal factors. Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, prescription drug and alcohol use can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather.

Here are some facts about which people are at greatest risk for heat-related illness and what protective actions to take to prevent illness or death:

* People who are at highest risk are the elderly, the young and people with mental illness and chronic diseases.

* But even young and healthy people can get sick from the heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

* Air-conditioning is the No. 1 protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned.

You can take these steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries and deaths during hot weather:

* Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location.

* Drink plenty of fluids.

* Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.

* Schedule outdoor activities carefully.

* Pace yourself.

* Take cool showers or baths to cool down.

* Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.

* Do not leave children in cars.

* Check the local news for health and safety updates.

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