We’re in the midst of summer, so we’re spending more time in the sun – at the pool, on the beach, hiking, biking, or attending outside events.
Some sun is beneficial to us. For example, it plays a role in producing Vitamin D, which helps protect against disease and strengthen bones. In addition, spending time outside may boost our mood and even help us get a better night’s sleep.
But too much time outdoors and over-exposure to the sun can lead to heat-related illness and damage to our skin.
The types of heat-related illnesses and their symptoms
The temperatures in our local area have already reached near 100 degrees, increasing our chance for heat-related conditions. The four most common types are heat rash, cramps, exhaustion, and stroke.
Heat rash, as the name implies, is the development of red and itchy skin due to heat. In addition, you may develop a tingling sensation or blisters on certain areas of your skin. If you don’t receive prompt medical treatment, it could lead to an infection.
Heat cramps mainly cause muscle pain in your legs, arms, and abdomen. Sometimes, they can cause painful spasms along with cool, moist skin.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the two most severe heat-related illnesses. You may be experiencing heat exhaustion if you are exhibiting any of the following symptoms:
- Quick, shallow breathing
- Lots of sweating and excessive thirst
- Elevated body temperature and racing heartbeat
- Feeling nauseous, vomiting, or having diarrhea
- Reduce urine output
- Overall weakness or feeling of being dizzy
Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can lead to organ failure and even death. If you are experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms of heat stroke, it’s essential to seek medical help right away:
- A quick, strong pulse
- A fever of 105 degrees or higher
- An absence of sweat, even when it’s humid
- Slurred speech, confusion, or hallucinations
- Loss of consciousness
- Feeling nauseated
Tips for staying cool in the brutal heat
You can take a few steps to help beat the heat and stay cool.
Stay indoors – If you can, stay in an indoor place with air conditioning as much as possible. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, head to a local cooling center, even for a few hours. If you don’t know where the nearest cooling center is, here is a list of them for the Greater Houston area.
Wear suitable clothing – Lightweight, light-colored (not black!), and loose-fitting clothing is best.
Limit your time outdoors – Schedule your outdoor activities in the morning or the evening – during the coolest times of the day. If you’re exercising outside, pace yourself and seek the nearest shade.
Hydrate – Hydrate before, during, and after you have spent time outdoors. Choose water over sodas or other types of beverages.
Eat light – When you eat a hot or heavy meal, it adds heat to your body, which is something you don’t need when it’s over hovering 100 degrees outside.
Protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful rays
Just one bad sunburn can increase your chances of developing skin cancer. The best way to minimize the damaging effects of the sun is to limit exposure and protect your skin and eyes.
The American Academy of Dermatology provides the following guidance:
- Use sunscreen: Choose a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30. You’ll want the broad-spectrum because it protects you from UVA and UVB rays. Generously apply and then re-apply every two hours, especially after you’ve been sweating or in the water.
- Wear protective clothing: For maximum protection, wear clothing with a UV protection factor of 50 or more or a tightly woven fabric. Many options are available, including fashionable swim shirts, bathing suits, and even coverups. Sun-protective gear is an excellent option for kids, especially those who won’t stand still for a thorough sunscreen application. A large, brimmed hat also is a wise choice on hot, sunny days.
- Don’t forget your eyes, lips, and part: UV rays can also harm your eyes. Exposure over time can lead to the formation of cataracts or a clouding of the eye’s lens. Overexposure to the sun can lead to growth in the eyes and cancer. Your lips can easily sunburn, too. Protect them using a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. Finally, don’t forget to put sunscreen on your part or wear a hat to protect this sensitive area.
- Find shade: Remember to seek shade when appropriate. UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Read medication labels: Some over-the-counter and prescription medications increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. You can develop a severe sunburn within minutes if you take one of these medications. If you are, consider using extra sunscreen.
Reducing the pain associated with a sunburn
Despite your best attempts to prevent sunburn, you still might end up with one. Here are some tips to promote healing:
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- Use a moisturizer, lotion, or gel to soothe the skin. Select one with the main ingredient of aloe vera.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen
- Don’t break blistered skin
These steps won’t necessarily treat sunburn, but they reduce pain and discomfort.
Community First ER is here for you
If you need to seek emergency care for a heat-related illness or sunburn, Community First ER will be here for you. No appointment is necessary, and walk-ins are accepted. You will experience little to no wait times to receive our personalized, compassionate, and concierge-level services. Our board-certified physicians and registered nurses will treat you or your loved one like family, making your health and peace of mind a top priority. We are here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
About Community First ER
Emergency health care is a critical resource. Our commitment is to provide a personal, transparent, and concierge-driven emergency health care experience to our community members. Locally owned and operated by health care providers and partners we trust; we strive to support and create meaningful relationships with those around us. We exist to put your health and wellness first. For more information, visit our website at https://communityfirster.com/ and engage with us on social media.