I am not a girl who likes summer. Primarily because summer meant hot. And Texas, the summer is H-O-T! And here I am, a fair-skinned redhead.
I was always the kid whose mother wouldn’t let her go out during the sunniest part of the day. I was the teenage girl who couldn’t get a tan to save my life. While my friends were out worshiping the sun with baby oil spread all over them while turning a beautiful bronze color, I was covered in sunscreen, hiding under a floppy hat, and covered from head to toe – if I was outside in the first place. I hated it.
So I was always the hothouse flower (my dad’s description for me) and I’m still not happy about it. I know that I don’t acclimate well to heat. In fact, heat absolutely drains me, in addition to burning the heck out of me.
This morning I did something I know I shouldn’t have: I went for my morning walk at a later time in the morning than usual. Now I love the morning walks and I love my walking buddy. I just don’t love the heat. I knew that I felt odd during most of the walk. It was difficult to breathe (I chalked it up to humidity), I felt more tired than usual, and I noticed that my hands began swelling to the point where it was almost painful to flex my fingers. Definitely not normal symptoms for me and I was relieved when the walk was over.
Returning home my husband commented about how red I was. Not just flushed – beet red! And even though I was now in an air-conditioned house, it took about an hour before the sweating stopped (in fact, I was still sweating even after taking a shower), and my hands began to feel normal.
My hubby, of course, began to lecture me about being careful and not overdoing it – after all, I didn’t need to get a case of heat stroke. You know the lecture because you’ve probably gotten similar ones from the men in your lives. But this time I paid attention and decided that it might be wise to review the signs of heat stroke for myself and to pass along here.
Symptoms of heat stroke:
- high body temperature
- rapid breathing
- rapid heartbeat
- altered mental state or behavior
- flushed skin
- nausea and vomiting
- alteration in sweating
Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never taken heat stroke all that seriously. I always treated it like something that wouldn’t really happen (like when your mom tells you to quit making funny faces because your face will ‘freeze that way’). But it so happens that heat stroke kills more people than all other weather events combined. Living in tornado alley I’ve always worried about storms in the spring and I’ve watched as hurricanes took lives. I just never really thought seriously about heat related deaths.
But after the experience this morning, I’m going to pay much more attention to the effects of heat on my body. But what should you do if you, or someone you know, gets to experiencing heat related symptoms?
[bctt tweet=”Heat stroke isn’t something to take lightly.” username=”@sasmerchant”]
What to do to combat the heat:
- Get cool. Get out of the heat or at least into the shade. Cool off with air-conditioning, cool rags, etc.
- Drink water. Staying hydrated helps your body do it’s own cooling so be sure to grab that water bottle when you head out into the heat. And have plenty of cool water around when you’re participating in outdoor activities.
- Get accustomed to the heat slowly. Don’t overdo it if your body isn’t fully adjusted to the hot weather.
- Pay attention to the humidity levels. Higher humidity makes even lower temperatures more dangerous.
- Know your risk factors. People with heart conditions, who are overweight, and who take certain medications may be at higher risk from heat.
And of course, if the heat is harmful for you then it’s obviously harmful for infants, young children, the elderly. And don’t forget Fido.
Now, on to that other heat condition that I’ve also suffered from – sunburn
I’ve sunburned easily all my life. I remember attending a Texas Tech football game during my freshman year. We had seats up in the ‘nosebleed’ section. For me, this term was all too accurate. Before the end of the first quarter I had to leave the game. When I returned to my dorm room I had puss-filled blisters across my nose and cheeks – yuck!
So I’ve always tried to simply stay out of the sun during the worst part of the day, which actually is the best strategy for anyone. But sunburn is extremely common. More than 70% of children suffer from at least one sunburn every year and over a third of adults succumb as well.
Obviously, some people are more prone to sunburn than others. Those of us with red and blond hair, and anyone who has fair skin, are going to be the first sunburn victims. If we can’t stay out of the sun, there are steps we can take to protect our skin from the burning, blistering, and peeling that accompany the burn.
- Stay indoors during the sunniest part of the day if you can. This is the easiest strategy but it’s not always possible for people whose jobs require that they work outdoors. In those cases, other methods must be used.
- Lather up on the sunscreen. The higher the SPF, the better.
- Cover up. Light colored clothing that covers you from head to toe will even keep you cooler because it won’t absorb the heat. And the layers will protect your skin. Be sure not to forget your head! Scalps sunburn too so put your hat on.
And if you do end up sunburned, there are a variety of methods you can use to give you relief and to aid in the healing process. Cold compresses, aloe vera, sunburn creams, and drinking water will all help you feel better. Of course, you should contact your medical professional if you have severe sunburn symptoms. I’m not a doctor – just a fellow sufferer.
So here’s to a safe and healthy summer!