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Riding out a heat wave

Disrespect the powerful summer sun and it could get dangerously hot. But with the right safeguards, you can keep heat-related problems from ruining your summer fun.

Sweating it

Hot weather brings trouble when your body can no longer cool itself with perspiration. Usually, the culprit is simply not knowing when to quit an activity. Overexertion drains the body of fluids and electrolytes—minerals that help keep our cells working properly. The result can be:

  • heat cramps in the abdomen, back or legs that disappear after cooling down and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • heat exhaustion, a condition marked by rapid heartbeat; faintness; nausea; and clammy, ashen skin. To treat, get to a shady or air-conditioned place, lie down, elevate feet, loosen clothing and sip cold water or juice.
  • heat stroke, a medical emergency. Symptoms include soaring body temperature; hot, red skin; shallow breathing; delirium; and fainting. Call 911 and get the person into an air-conditioned room and a cool tub or shower, or cover him or her with water-soaked towels.

(Note: Certain medicines for Parkinson’s disease, some tranquilizers and conditions like obesity or poor circulation can make you overheat more easily. Ask your doctor for special heat-safety advice.)

To keep cool, take safety measures such as:

  • staying informed. Knowing your weather forecast can give you a vital head’s-up if you’ve got outdoor plans.
  • drinking plenty of water, sports drinks or fruit juices—two to four cups an hour. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which act as diuretics and rid the body of fluids.
  • chilling out. Stay in an air-conditioned place, and don’t cook, do laundry or take hot baths or showers. Dress in light, loose clothes and avoid heavy, spicy meals.