Heat waves can be dangerous and even deadly if not taken seriously. Heat waves are becoming increasingly common in many parts of the world with the warming climate. Knowing how to stay safe when temperatures soar and what signs you should watch out for indicate heat-related illness or injury is essential.
In this article, we will discuss the risks and symptoms of heat wave exposure and provide tips on staying safe during a heat wave. Understanding these risks and taking preventive measures can ensure your safety during extreme weather conditions. But before that, let’s look at what exactly it is.
What exactly is heat wave exposure?
A heat wave is defined as a period of abnormally hot weather lasting for several days or weeks. High temperatures and humidity cause it. Heat waves can cause serious health issues such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, dehydration, and other ailments associated with extreme heat.
When directly exposed to the sun, your body can overheat quickly. Heat waves are especially dangerous for children, seniors, people with pre-existing conditions, and those without access to air conditioning.
Symptoms and Risks of Heat Wave Exposure
When exposed to a heat wave, below are the symptoms and serious risks that could occur:
Signs of heat exhaustion may include excessive sweating, nausea, dizziness, weakness, headache, and confusion. It can happen when the body is exposed to temperatures that are too hot for it to handle. Furthermore, excessive sweating causes the body to lose water and electrolytes, leading to dehydration.
Heat stroke is a more serious form of heat exhaustion and can be fatal. Symptoms include a high body temperature, rapid pulse, confusion, and dry skin. Heat stroke can occur when the body’s cooling system fails to regulate itself properly due to extreme heat and humidity levels.
Excessive sweating during a heat wave can lead to dehydration which is the loss of water from the body. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, lightheadedness, headache, dry mouth, and dark-colored urine. Dehydration is very serious and can lead to other health complications if left untreated.
Being exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause the skin to become red and tender from sunburns. Sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer and other serious health issues if left untreated. Sunburn also increases the risk of dehydration due to increased water loss from the skin.
Tips to stay safe during summers:
Drink plenty of water and other fluids to prevent dehydration. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, as they can increase the risk of dehydration. While drinking water, try to have it at room temperature instead of having it chilled.
It is because drinking excessively chilled drinks can increase the risk of stomach cramps. Furthermore, there are several risks associated with drinking too much water, so make sure to stay within recommended limits.
To stay hydrated, you can also consume drinks like electrolyte-infused beverages or coconut water, which contain minerals and other nutrients that can help replace lost body fluids. Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining body temperature, regulating blood pressure, and preventing heat stroke.
Wear light clothes:
When outdoors during a heat wave, wear light, breathable clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your neck, face, and scalp from sunburns. Avoid wearing heavy fabrics like denim or velvet, as they can make it difficult for your body to regulate its temperature.
Furthermore, dark colors absorb more heat than lighter ones; therefore, opt for light-colored clothing instead. When it comes to shoes, wear open-toed sandals or sneakers to allow your feet to breathe.
When it comes to clothing, fit is important. Make sure your clothes are not too tight, as this will hinder the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. In addition, opt for loose-fitting clothing to allow air to flow through and keep your body cool.
Limit outdoor activities:
During a heat wave, limit your physical activity and stay indoors in a cool area as much as possible. If you must go outdoors, try to do so during the cooler parts of the day (early morning or evening). For those who need to work outdoors, make sure to take frequent breaks in shaded areas.
Also, if you’re coming indoors from direct sun, avoid air-conditioning for a few minutes as it can cause shock to your system. It’s because the significant temperature difference between the outdoors and indoors can affect your body’s ability to adjust its temperature.
In addition, stay away from direct sunlight and try to find a shaded area for shade. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when outdoors and reapply as needed throughout the day. Also, wear sunglasses with UV protection to shield your eyes from the sun’s rays.
Take breaks and use cool compresses:
Taking breaks is important when engaging in physical activity during a heatwave. Make sure to take frequent breaks and drink water often to prevent dehydration. You can also use a cool compress like a damp cloth or towel on your neck or forehead to help regulate body temperature.
In addition, try to find a cool spot, like a shaded area, to rest in for at least half an hour. Moreover, if you experience any symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as nausea, dizziness, or headache, stop the activity immediately and seek medical attention.
Ask for medical help:
If you experience symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as nausea and dizziness, seek medical attention immediately. Also, look out for signs of heat stroke and other serious health conditions. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical assistance; therefore, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and act accordingly.
Heatstroke is characterized by a body temperature higher than 104°F (40°C), rapid heartbeat, confusion or disorientation, and hot, red, dry skin. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.
In conclusion, staying safe during a heat wave requires you to be aware of the symptoms and risks associated with exposure. Drink plenty of fluids, wear light clothes, limit outdoor activities, take breaks and use cool compresses, and seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.