It looks like, at least where I live, summer is going to exert itself in full force right through the unofficial end of summer – Labor Day weekend. Whether you’re on an active vacation this week or planning lots of outdoor fun (or chores) over the long weekend, you certainly don’t want to ruin the waning days of summer with a heat-related illness.
Those of us who’ve been avoiding the heat all summer and, therefore, aren’t acclimated, are most vulnerable. Before heading out, consult the Real Feel or Feels Like temperature (rather than the current temperature) listed on most weather apps, which factors in humidity/dewpoint and ambient heat along with outdoor air temperature. Based on the Feels Like temperature, here are the extreme heat guidelines we should all follow to stay safe and healthy through the remaining dog days:
HOT WEATHER GUIDELINES
HEALTHY, REGULAR EXERCISERS ONLY: Follow the 4 Rules (below) when temperature Feels Like 82-89°F; Avoid outdoor exertion when Feels Like temperature is > 89°F
DECONDITIONED/CARDIOVASCULAR or PULMONARY CONDITIONS: Follow the 4 Rules (below) when temperature Feels Like 75-80°F; Avoid outdoor exertion when Feels Like temperature is > 80°F
THE FIRST SIGNS OF TROUBLE ARE CRAMPING AND DEHYDRATION
IGNORING THESE EARLY WARNINGS IS A RECIPE FOR HEAT EXHAUSTION OR, WORSE, HEAT STROKE:
THE 4 RULES OF HOT WEATHER ENGAGEMENT
#1: Avoid the hottest time of day (11am-5pm): For outdoor play or chores, opt for early morning or evening when the sun is low on the horizon. Watch the sky and consult weather forecasts, high heat and humidity increase the likelihood of dangerous storms.
#2: Dress the part: The body cools not from the sweat itself but from the evaporation of sweat off exposed skin. Covering skin impedes evaporation. The hotter, more humid the day, the more exposed skin you should have. Wear shorts, sleeveless or short-sleeved top, and short socks made of synthetic, light-colored fabrics that wick away moisture. Apply sunscreen to exposed skin. Wear UV proof sunglasses, brimmed hat or visor.
#3: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Two hours before outdoor exertion, drink 17-20 oz of water. Sip 7-10 oz of water/sports drink every 10-20 minutes while working or playing outdoors. Afterwards, drink 16-24 oz water/sports drink for every one-hour period of exertion. (While sports drinks are typically recommended for only those who work or exercise at high intensities for long periods, it is recommended that those who will be doing any type of activity in very hot/humid conditions for an hour or more include sports drinks to replenish sodium and other electrolytes that are lost during excessive perspiration.)
#4: Select the correct intensity and conditions: Avoid direct sunlight and high intensity exercise or work. If that can’t be avoided:
- KEEP IT SHORT: Work or play in short bursts of 20 minutes or less.
- REST & DRINK: Every 20 minutes, rest in the shade or indoors for a minimum of 10 minutes and hydrate (7-10 oz).
- WATER THE OUTSIDE, TOO: For play without swimming options, include water fun like sprinklers, Slip ‘n Slide or water balloon/blaster competitions. For chores, set up a garden hose to douse yourself after breaks before heading back to work.
Following these basic rules will ensure a happy end to your summer activities. Have fun and stay cool!