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Gundersen Health System: How to beat the heat this summer

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Gundersen Health System has several tips for staying safe when heat reaches excessive levels.

Drink more (nonalcoholic) fluids.

No matter your activity level, drink more water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar. Sugar-filled drinks and alcoholic beverages cause you to lose more body fluid. Avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Stay indoors and, if possible, in air-conditioning

If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a location like a library, shopping mall or grocery store. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.

Electric fans are not the answer.

Fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place, is a much better way to cool off.

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Light clothing reflects heat, dark clothing holds heat. Loose-fitting clothing will allow your body to sweat and rid itself of heat.

Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.

Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on infants and young children; people aged 65 or older; people who have a mental illness; and those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure.

Visit adults at risk.

Watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need to be watched much more frequently.

Cut down on exercise.

If you must exercise or work outdoors, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Limit your activity to morning and evening hours and rest often in shady areas.

Protect yourself from the sun.

Wear a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).

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