Surviving the Dog Days of August: Protecting At-Risk Individuals From Intense Summer Heat

Man sweating and drinking water

Fall is fast approaching, and with it, a much-anticipated transition from heat and humidity to cool, brisk weather. Before lower temperatures arrive, however, we may need to endure a few more brutally hot days.

Summer heat isn’t just uncomfortable; it can be downright dangerous for vulnerable individuals. Issues such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke become more common as the temperature spikes — and often, just a few degrees are enough to place vulnerable people at risk.

Thankfully, it’s possible to avoid such problems — even on the hottest, most uncomfortable days. Keep reading to learn whether you or your loved ones might be susceptible, and if so, how to stay safe in extreme heat.

Who Is Most Vulnerable?

While heat can be a problem for anyone, certain groups tend to be most susceptible when the temperature and humidity hit extreme levels. At-risk populations identified by the Centers for Disease Control include:

  • Older adults. With age comes a reduced ability to handle sudden changes in temperature. This problem can be exacerbated by chronic conditions and certain prescription medications.
  • Infants and young children. Babies sweat far less than older children and adults, so they are less capable of regulating their temperature. This problem may be worsened by difficulties in determining when, exactly, young children need fluids. As babies, they should be offered breastmilk or formula regularly, accompanied by water as soon as they’re old enough.
  • People with chronic conditions. A variety of long-term health conditions make people of all ages more susceptible to heat and humidity. Obesity, heart disease, and circulation issues are among the most concerning risk factors for heat-related illness. These issues are more likely to prompt issues in seniors but can be worrisome at any age.
  • Athletes and employees with physically demanding jobs. Highly active individuals may bristle at any suggestion of being vulnerable, but they are among the most likely to deal with heat-related issues. Often, a harmful attitude of toughing it out gets in the way, as it prevents athletic types from seeking the rest or care they require.

How to Stay Safe On Hot Days

The desire to make the most of each summer day is understandable as fall approaches, but prudence is essential when heat and humidity take over. A few simple precautions can prevent both general discomfort and potentially life-threatening issues:

Take It Easy

Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and other hot weather concerns are more likely when participating in activities that involve major physical exertion. Hence, the prevalence of heat-related illness among athletes and other active individuals who seem to be in excellent shape.

It’s still possible to exercise in the heat, but it may be necessary to dial back the intensity. Take regular water breaks and don’t hesitate to call it quits when you feel uncomfortable. If you prefer physically demanding activities, consider exercising indoors at an air-conditioned gym or even at home.

Acclimatizing to the heat over time may make it easier to handle ongoing stretches of hot weather. While the last few weeks of summer may seem too late for adjusting, it’s still possible to ease into hot temperatures. This means starting small and progressively increasing both the duration and intensity of outdoor activities.

Hydration Is Essential

Dehydration represents one of the greatest threats when excessive heat takes over. To compensate for the increased temperature, the body sweats more. This results in an accelerated pace of fluid loss. Taken to an extreme, dehydration can be incredibly dangerous, particularly for the vulnerable groups highlighted above.

Unfortunately, dehydration is a chronic, societal problem even in cooler weather. Research suggests that some of the most vulnerable among us are chronically dehydrated. Add heat to this already alarming tendency to not drink enough, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Struggling to stay hydrated on the hottest summer days? These suggestions should help:

  • Don’t wait for thirst to signal a need for water.
  • Fill a giant water bottle at the beginning of the day and set a goal of completing it by lunchtime.
  • Swap sodium-filled foods with fruits and vegetables that boast high water content. Top options include oranges, watermelon, and cucumber.
  • Adjust water intake accordingly if dealing with medications that commonly lead to dehydration.
  • When convincing children to drink water, lead by example. Start making regular hydration a habit as soon as kids are allowed to drink water.
  • A brightly colored bottle can make water more enticing for children and adults alike.

Dress for the Weather

While it may initially seem obvious that your wardrobe should be adjusted to account for extreme heat, many popular summer outfits actually exacerbate hot weather concerns. All clothing should be made from breathable materials, such as cotton or linen. Likewise, light-colored outfits are preferable to darker hues.

The right hat can also make a huge difference when the sun is at its most intense. A breathable hat with a wide brim is preferable, as this will keep the sun away from your face.

While longer layers may be needed to prevent sunburn when heading outside, it’s best to wear as little clothing as possible if forced to spend time indoors without air conditioning.

Keep an Eye Out For Common Symptoms of Dehydration or Heat Exhaustion

As you spend time with people who are vulnerable to heat, keep a close watch for common signs of trouble These include the following:

  • Becoming unusually drowsy
  • Intense thirst
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fever

Remember, these symptoms can come on suddenly. When they appear, proactive measures are essential. Our attorneys at Regan Zambri Long advise you to seek medical care if you suspect heat-related illness.