Health Report: 5 Tips for Safe Summer Fun
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Summer time in San Diego is ideal for playing outside. Pick your favorite sport or activity in and out of the water and enjoy doing it while taking in the sunny scenery in America’s Finest City. But do be cautious and don’t overdo it.
It’s important to understand the dangers of pushing yourself too hard in the summer heat without protection. Overexertion, exercising in weather you are not accustomed to, and dehydration set up the perfect storm for heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Keep summer fun and safe with these tips to protect yourself and your family.
1. Stay hydrated
“It’s okay to work out in hot, humid weather—and even to push yourself a bit — if you are smart about it,” said John Dawkins, M.D., family medicine physician with Scripps Clinic in Del Mar. “That starts with being well-hydrated,” he said.
Physiologically, proper hydration can help your body adapt to the heat and keep you protected from heat stress. “Drink plenty of fluid before, during and after exercise,” Dr. Dawkins said.
Drinking a cool beverage will help cool your body as well, especially your core. Avoid ice-cold drinks, which can cause stomach cramps. If you are on a fluid-restricted diet or take diuretics, consult with your doctor before increasing fluids, especially if you are over 65
2. Choose the best fluids for your activity
As a general rule, if you are exercising for less than an hour, water is probably as good as anything else for both hydration and performance.
“But if your activity stretches beyond an hour, sports re-hydration drinks may be a better option,” said Christopher Nerantzinis, M.D., family medicine physician with Scripps Clinic in Santee. These drinks provide both carbohydrates and electrolytes, which can aid in fluid absorption and help your performance, he said.
Be aware that drinking too much water can actually lower your blood sodium levels, which can be dangerous. Though this is uncommon, if you are drinking a lot of water and sweating heavily, consider switching to a sports drink to help maintain your electrolytes.
Avoid caffeinated beverages, which will not hydrate you as well as those without caffeine.
3. Protect yourself from the sun
“Use plenty of sunscreen when you are exercising outdoors to protect your skin and avoid sunburn, which can increase your skin temperature,” Dr. Nerantzinis said.
Reapply sunscreen often, especially if you are sweating or in the water. If possible, wear a hat to keep your head cool. Keeping the sun off of your face can also help you feel cooler.
Plan outdoor activities in the early morning or evening, avoiding the hottest times of day. On very hot days, consider exercising indoors in an air-conditioned environment.
If you have difficulty breathing, feel lightheaded or nauseated, develop a headache or feel your heart pounding, find a cool area, re-hydrate and rest.
4. Know the warning signs of heat-related illness
Two of the most common heat-related problems are heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses significant amounts of water and sweat. Symptoms may include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness or dizziness, headache, fatigue and nausea or vomiting. If any of these occur, get the person out of the sun and into a cool environment, and re-hydrate with a cool beverage.
“If symptoms continue, seek medical care,” Dr. Dawkins said.
Heat stroke is much more serious and results when your body cannot control its rising temperature. It can come on very suddenly and may cause death or organ damage without immediate medical attention. Heat stroke symptoms may include body temperature above 104°F, dizziness, confusion, rapid pulse and loss of consciousness.
“If heat stroke occurs, the first step — even before calling 911 — is to lower the person’s body temperature as quickly as possible,” Dr. Dawkins said. “Put the person in an ice bath if available, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels around the body. Then call 911 and try to keep the person cool until help arrives.”
5. Pay special attention to children
Be especially careful when your children are outdoors in the summer heat. Children’s bodies aren’t as adept at regulating temperature as adults, and kids may be so engrossed in their activities that they don’t realize they are becoming overheated.
Follow the same recommendations for hydration and staying cool as with adults, and keep a close eye on them.
For more information, visit http://www.scripps.org/KUSI or call 858-240-5075.