The school in our area is back up and running marks the unofficial end of summer, but the summer weather is still with us. With high temperatures and humidity, it feels like summer isn’t over yet. In addition to being uncomfortable, these conditions can be dangerous, especially for people who work or play outdoors.
Exposure to high heat over time has been linked to an increased risk of death, especially in the elderly. Even single hot days can exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory problems in children and adults. High temperatures are especially of concern for people who work outdoors who are at a much higher risk of developing heat illness. Even people who spend limited time outdoors on hot days can become dehydrated and feel tired or uncomfortable.
High temperatures are also associated with increased levels of pollution, especially in urban areas. Even in less populated areas, ozone concentrations near the ground can become dangerously high, leading to recommendations to limit outdoor activities. Ozone is known to worsen respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma, and to cause chest pain, cough, throat irritation, and airway inflammation.
Athletes and other people who are active outdoors can be prone to heat illness. High heat and humidity make sweating less effective, so your body produces even more sweat. Losing a lot of water through sweating can lead to dehydration. At the very least, you will likely feel tired, but in more severe cases you may experience dizziness, low blood pressure, and fainting.
The highest temperatures occur in the late afternoon or early evening, so just after school or work may not be the best time to go outdoors. Unfortunately, most of the training sessions and games for youth sports take place during this time. Usually the weather is cooler at this time of year, which makes these events safer for the athletes and more enjoyable for the spectators. Given the persistently hot and humid weather we are experiencing, parents, coaches, and athletes need to be even more careful about planning adequate hydration and rest periods during training and games.
Here are some sensible guidelines to make exercise, work, and play outdoors safe and enjoyable for your whole family when the summer heat continues:
• Drink enough fluids. Typically, a cup of water every 15 minutes is enough for most people. Thirst is a good indicator of fluid needs, but you should take regular breaks to rehydrate yourself.
• Take breaks. The longer you are active, the hotter it gets and the heat can make you feel more tired. Regular breaks give you the opportunity to rest, cool off, and have a drink.
• Seek shade. Being in the sun means you will feel even hotter because you are getting warmth from the sun’s rays. By spending as much time in the shade as possible, you’ll stay cool.
• Choose cool clothes. Lighter clothing reduces the amount of heat absorbed by the sun. Exposure to more skin and wearing synthetic fabrics that wick sweat away from the skin can also make you feel cooler.
• Avoid the hottest times of the day. Try to plan your outdoor activities in the morning or evening to avoid the hottest times of the day.
While we cannot change the weather, these precautions can make participating in – and watching – sports and other activities in high heat safer and more enjoyable.