Can You Handle the Heat: Find Out How to Stay Safe While Vacationing During Intense Heatwaves
This has been one of the hottest summers on record, and we all know that unless we can curb our greenhouse gas emissions, heatwaves will only become more intense and more frequent.
However, most people do not want to put their summer travel plans on hold because of something as seemingly mundane as the weather. The key is knowing how to stay safe during this new “normal.”
If you are planning to travel during times of intense heat, it is important to be aware of the health risks and take precautions to avoid them.
Here are some of the most common health risks of spending time outdoors during a heatwave.
● Heat stroke: Heat stroke occurs when your body cannot regulate its internal temperature. It can also cause loss of consciousness, confusion, seizures, irritated skin, and rapid breathing. If left untreated, heat stroke can be fatal.
● Heat exhaustion: Similar but not the same as heat stroke, heat exhaustion is caused by excessive sweating, which leads to dehydration. Heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke if not treated, so it is important to notice the early signs. Symptoms include headache, extreme thirst, excessive sweating, body cramps, pale skin, and more.
● Heat cramps: Although not as dangerous as the former two, heat cramps can be very uncomfortable. These cramps occur when you sweat so much that there is not enough salt in your body. If you feel heat cramps, you should stop any physical activity you’re doing, drink juice or a sports drink with electrolytes, and rest.
● Heat rash: You will notice heat rash pretty quickly once it happens. It is red and presents as 2mm to 4mm raised spots. It can occur anywhere on the body but is not contagious. Treatment includes cooling your skin and avoiding exposure to the heat source that caused the rash.
● Rhabdomyolysis: This is a life-threatening heat-induced illness that causes the death of muscle, which releases waste into the bloodstream. The kidneys usually remove waste from the blood and flush it out in urine. However, if there is too much waste, the kidneys will not work fast enough. This can lead to kidney failure and even death. While relatively rare, Rhabdomyolysis can be caused by intense exercise, severe dehydration, muscle trauma, certain prescription medications and/or illegal drugs, and long periods of inactivity.
How can you avoid heat-related illnesses?
You booked your travel plans last year and have no intention of canceling. Or you need to get away for a few days on a spontaneous trip that will refresh and revitalize you. Whatever your reason for traveling during the summer, there is no reason to cancel due to the heat!
However, to avoid heat-related illnesses like those listed above, it’s important to follow several guidelines:
● Wear loose fitting clothing
● Drink a lot of water and fluids with electrolytes
● Avoid drink alcohol or other diuretics
● Put on sunscreen and a hat when outdoors
● Do not exercise outside in the heat of the day
● Do not spend hours in the heat if you’ve never done it before (you need to build up your strength gradually)
● Do not use the oven or other heating electronics if you are indoors
Do not risk ruining your vacation by being cavalier about these guidelines. More importantly, do not risk your life! While most heat-related illnesses are not life threatening, why take the chance? In fact, why take the chance of even getting a little bit sick? Drinking enough water, minimizing time spent outdoors in intense heat, and common sense can go a long way.