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If you work outdoors or enjoy outdoor activities as a regular part of your lifestyle, then you know all too well that excessive heat not only can slow you down and make you miserable, but it can also be a very real health risk. But, it doesn't have to be this way. By following these steps, you can survive a heat wave and continue to work and enjoy the outdoors.
Before subjecting yourself to extremely hot temperatures, plan ahead. Take time to think about the risks you face when in extreme heat and the various things that could go wrong. Whether you are spending the entire day or just a few hours outside, think about the things that could happen to you or others, including pets, that you are with on account of being in extreme heat. Depending upon your activity, you need to plan for both the expected and the unexpected. What happens if you run out of water? What happens if your child loses their hat? What happens if someone in your group suddenly becomes dizzy and faints? While you don't want these things to happen, you can be prepared for them.
Make an emergency kit that is appropriate for your outdoor activities and risks. Always have water, non-perishable food items or snacks for energy, a first aid kit, and a cell phone. Consider other items such as medications, flashlights, extra batteries, and personal health and hygiene items for all day and overnight outings.
In the event that something bad happens and you need to contact someone for help, be sure to know in advance who you want to contact. While you can always call 911, other help may be closer. For example, if you are playing golf, at the beach, or a public park, be sure to have the appropriate emergency telephone number stored in your mobile phone.
Don't just bring water, drink it. Plan to drink as much water as you can before you start your outdoor activity. Don't wait until you feel heat exhaustion overtaking you before you drink your water. It is better to drink small amounts at regular intervals than to hold out as long as you can and then drink like a fish. Drinking large quantities of water can cause heat cramps and make you nauseous. In addition to water, it's okay to drink beverages designed to keep your electrolytes in balance, but stay away from alcohol and soda.
The worst thing you can do when in excessive heat is to take your clothes off. Removing clothing does not make you less hot. On the contrary, removing clothing will expose your skin directly to the harmful UV rays of the sun. It will make you hotter and cause you to sweat more resulting in body water loss. Keep your clothes on.
When you are in extremely hot weather, always remember that the sun is your enemy and the shade is your friend. Whether at work or at play, periodically find your way to some shade and take a moment to rest. This will allow your body to cool down. If you are outside working on a project, move your work to the shade of a tree or building if possible. If you are out for a picnic or walk in the park, try to stay in the shade. If you are playing golf with your buddies, stay in the shade whenever you can and if there isn't much shade then open up and stay under your umbrella.
Clothing is the best form of protection from the sun, but not all clothing is equal when it comes to protective characteristics and comfort. When you must or choose to work or play in extreme heat, wear quality sun protective clothing. Look for UPF labels. A concept originally from Australia and now standardized, UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor which quantifies the effectiveness a piece of clothing is in shielding you from the sun. You should wear a garment with a UPF of at least 30.
In addition to your clothing, be sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat such as a bucket hat or explorer hat with an extended neck flap so that your face, ears, and neck are protected. In extremely hot weather, a baseball cap provides very little protection to your face and no protection to your ears and neck. Leave it at home. Remember to wear head wear such as a neck gaiter or a scarf. This will keep you from getting sunburned on your neck and the exposed upper chest area where your shirt opens up. This skin is especially sensitive and subject to sun damage in any heat condition and even more so in a heat wave, so keep it covered.
Wear quality UV compression arm sleeves to keep your arms cool and protected. Not only will they keep your arms protected from the harmful rays of the sun, they will also wick away moisture keeping your arms dry and feeling cool as if they are in air conditioning. Also, since your arms will not be dripping with sweat and emitting chemical odors, it will be more difficult for heat and chemical sensing insects to find you. And if your outdoor activity is strenuous and requires you to use your arm muscles, the compression properties of the arm sleeves will improve the circulation of the blood flow in your arms hastening recovery from exertion and keeping your arms relaxed.
For areas of your body that you cannot cover, use a quality sunblock to ensure protection from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Be mindful to reapply sunblock as it does not offer all day protection. As a general rule of thumb, you should reapply sunblock every two hours for normal use and every hour for use in water sports and water related activities.
It is always a good idea to be prepared for the weather. With conditions seemingly getting more severe in summer as well as winter seasons, it is not unlikely that you will find yourself in excessive heat conditions from time to time and maybe even in a heat wave. But with a little planning and effort, you can still enjoy your outdoor activities.