A mid-summer heat wave is hitting the Tennessee Valley this week and that means everyone should take extra precautions to stay safe and avoid heat-related illnesses.  

We'll have temperatures in the high-90's later this week.

CHI Memorial  reminds us of the dangers related to the heat. “Exercising or working outside when the temperature is above 90 degrees puts extra stress on your body,” says Owen Speer, D.O., CHI Memorial Primary Care Associates – Hixson.  “You put yourself at risk for serious illnesses if you don’t take care of yourself when exercising in that kind of heat.”

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Dr. Speer says our bodies have a natural cooling system to adjust for heat, but exposure to high temperatures and humidity can keep that system from cooling our bodies as well as it does in normal conditions.  That can lead to heat-related illnesses including:

  • Heat cramps - painful muscle contractions; normal body temperature
  • Heat exhaustion - nausea, headache, vomiting and cold, clammy skin; body temperature as high as 104° F
  • Heat stroke – body temperature greater than 104° F; confusion, dizziness, nausea, skin is hot

“Heat-related illnesses can be prevented,” explains Dr. Speer.  “You don’t have to stop exercising when the heat is on.  Just be smart and take precautions.”  Dr. Speer recommends following these steps to lower your risk of developing a heat-related illness.

  • Drink plenty of fluids - Staying hydrated is a key factor for avoiding heat illness.  Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.  Stay hydrated before, during, and after activity
  • Time of day matters – Exercise in the morning and evening when temperatures are cooler.  Avoid exercising outside between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. during peak sun hours
  • Dress appropriately – Light, loose fitting clothing help sweat evaporate and keeps your body cooler.  Avoid dark colored clothing that can absorb heat.  Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to guard against harmful UV rays 

While taking precautions can reduce your risk of getting a heat illness, you still need to monitor yourself during exercise.  If you have any symptom, you should stop exercising, drink fluids, and lower your body temperature.  “Take off extra clothes and equipment.  Fan yourself. Use wet towels on your neck or forehead. Go inside or into a car with air conditioning. Take a cool shower, spray yourself with a hose, or jump into a pool,” says Dr. Speer.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sweating extensively
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Visual problems

Dr. Speer recommends contacting your doctor if you don’t feel better within 30 minutes.