Every year, the news seems to be the same – the year was the hottest on record. July 3, 2023 was declared the hottest day on Earth ever recorded, with an average global temperature that reached 62.6 F.
The rise of the planet’s average temperature is expected to continue and accelerate over the coming decades. Summers are already getting hotter faster, especially in parts of the Northern Hemisphere. The average summer temperature in some Southern states reach the mid 80s, and days with 100 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter temperatures are not uncommon – these are the 50 hottest cities in America.
Scorching heat waves have become commonplace in the summer across the United States. Temperatures soar, basically trapping people inside air-conditioned spaces. But since summer is a time to be outside and enjoy the outdoors, it’s hard to stay in all day. So many people go out, and some come back with sunburns and other health issues because they didn’t take the proper precautions.
Sun and heat-related illnesses are among the most prevalent of summer injuries. Over 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Extreme heat can lead to dehydration and sunburn, which can be prevented, said Dr. Bonnie Simmons, emergency medicine doctor in Brooklyn, New York. “The key in heat is liquid, liquid, liquid.”
Some habits that may put your health in danger are exercising outside, exposing too much skin to the sun, and drinking even a moderate amount of alcohol without eating or drinking a lot of water. Dehydration, if untreated, can lead to serious health complications. These are the signs you’re way too dehydrated.
To identify unsafe behaviors during hot summer days, 24/7 Tempo consulted an urgent care doctor and reviewed several sources including the CDC, National Health Institutes, National Fire Protection Association, and the Food and Drug Administration.
1. Neglect sunscreen on parts of the body
One of the most important and simplest things anyone can do to protect themselves from sun damage when outside is applying sunscreen — everywhere that’s exposed. “People are getting better at understanding how important sunscreen is,” Dr. Simmons said. “We see [fewer] sunburn cases than we used to.” But many still forget to apply it on their feet, ears, top of the head, and back of the legs, she noted. Oftentimes, they fall asleep laying on their backs and wake up with burns, Simmons added. “At the very least, don’t forget to wear a big hat — they are awesome at shielding the head and shoulders.” For more health tips, here are 50 health tips everyone should know.
2. Take your shirt off
If you’re enjoying a day out in the sun, or go out for a run or bike ride, or simply mow the lawn, it’s often fun to take your shirt off as it feels cooler. But it’s not worth the risk of sunburn, according to Dr. Simmons. “I always tell my patients to get a very thin long-sleeve white shirt, preferably with UV protection.” They don’t make you feel hot; are loose enough so air still flows over the skin; they cover more skin area; and the lighter colors repels the sun, she noted. There are plenty of other ways to keep your skin healthy. Here are 17 skin care habits recommended by dermatologists.
3. Dry your clothes out
Wearing wet clothes can be dangerous in the winter but may be pleasant in the summer. “[Damp/Wet clothes] can help keep you cool,” Dr. Simmons said. “You’re not going to get a rash, despite what you may have heard.” And if you are on a hike somewhere, you may actually want to dip your shirt in a river and wear it wet. Cotton shirts, for example, are great at keeping moisture, keeping people cool for longer.
4. Forget to drink enough water
It sounds easy enough — drink a lot of water. But many people don’t and get in trouble for it. “We see a lot of dehydrated people,” Dr. Simmons said. Dehydrations is more dangerous than most people may realize. It may cause various problems — from mild conditions such as headaches to serious complications such as swelling of the brain. “If you only rely on feeling thirsty, you’re going to be dehydrated,” Simmons added. It’s not always the first indication of dehydration. It’s recommended that you carry a water bottle with you at all times, and don’t forget water for your pets. Here are the signs you’re way too dehydrated.
5. Drink caffeinated beverages instead of water
“Caffeine does not count as water,” Dr. Simmons said. Many people think that sodas, energy drinks, and large coffees will keep them hydrated, but this is not really the case, she noted. They may have a mild diuretic effect, making you go to the bathroom more often, leading to some loss of fluid. While research shows caffeinated drinks in moderation don’t actually cause dehydration, Simmons suggests to have double the amount of water if you choose to drink caffeinated drinks. Coffee has been a divisive topic of late. There are at least 18 reasons to drink coffee for your health and about as many signs you’re drinking too much coffee.
6. Exercise outdoors
Many people think that sweating means burning fat, and so they go outside in the hot weather to run, Dr. Simmons said. “But this is actually the worst thing you can do.” Sweating is the body’s natural process to cool itself down — water evaporates to lower the body’s temperature — but that can lead to dehydration, she explained. “And it’s harder to stay hydrated when it’s hot.” If you want to lose weight, exercise outside in the morning or late at night — never mid-day, Simmons said. “And cut your usual running time in half.” Otherwise, you risk developing heat stroke, she noted. Heat stroke, which occurs when the body’s temperature rises to above 104 F and doesn’t sweat, is a medical emergency.
7. Eat large, fatty meals
Other than the beach, probably nothing screams “summer” more than barbecuing. But “eating large, heavy, and fatty meals is never a good idea,” Dr. Simmons said. Possible food coma aside, it’s a bad idea when it comes to trying to stay cool, too. Eating and digesting the food leads to a small increase in body temperature as metabolism speeds up. This may explain why oftentimes people feel even hotter after eating ice cream than they did before the cold treat. Fat moves slower through the digestive system, which means the body needs more energy to break it down, raising its temperature even more. There are more things you should know about food, digestion, and calories.
8. Drink alcohol
Summer time is party time — and that often involves drinking outside, at a beach or while picnicking, Dr. Simmons noted. But alcohol and heat can be a dangerous combination. As a diuretic, alcohol promotes dehydration and hinders the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, making a person feel warmer. “For every alcoholic beverage, a person should drink two cups of water,” Simmon said. Older people and those with certain health conditions should drink less alcohol, or none at all, and drink even more water in between, she noted.
9. Leave medicine in the car
Some medications need to be kept in a fridge and some in a dark and dry place, Dr. Simmons said. No medication needs to be kept in a hot place, she noted. On a hot day, cars can get very hot — easily over 100 F within an hour. Heat may damage the medicine, according to the National Institutes of Health. It may become less potent, go bad before its expiration date, and, depending on the medicine, it may irritate the stomach. Don’t take your pills if they have changed texture or smell or if they appear cracked or are stuck together. “It’s a good idea to take a small cooler with an ice pack and keep medicine there when you’re out,” according to Simmons.
10. Keep an extra pair of glasses in the car
The inside temperature of a car parked in direct sunlight can reach 131 to 172 F, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Extreme heat can damage the frame of your glasses, which may result in them no longer fitting properly on your face. The heat can also damage the lenses by causing them to expand and contract, resulting in distorted vision.
11. Leave plastic bottles in the car
Plastic bottles are a fire hazard, if sunlight hits at the right angle. But this is not the only potential problem with plastic bottles left in a heated car. Chemicals in the plastic can leach into the liquid in the bottles. BPA levels in plastic bottles are deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration, but these levels increase because of the heat. Another substance, antimony, listed as a toxic substance by the CDC, can increase over a period of time when plastic bottles are left in heat, a 2014 University of Florida study found. Studies have reached different conclusions about the carcinogenic effect of BPA, with some saying it may affect hormone levels. You may choose to be on the safe side and on the environmental side — here are 19 genius inventions that can stop us from using so much plastic.
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