A pharmacist shares how to avoid heat related illness this Summer
With summer just around the corner, many of us are looking forward to days spent soaking up the sunshine. But with temperatures and UV levels set to rise, it’s important to keep sun safety front of mind to
prevent sun and heat-related illnesses from ruining your fun.
Heat-related illnesses are illnesses caused by prolonged exposure to strong heat, sun or humidity, and include conditions like dehydration or heatstroke, which in some cases can be life-threatening. Heat-related illnesses are particularly dangerous for babies and young children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Heatstroke, sunburn and dehydration typically peak throughout the summer months with heat related emergency department cases increasing during this time.
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you consume. When your body becomes dehydrated, it doesn’t have enough fluid to function properly, leading to fatigue, headaches, and muscle cramps.
Another risk of dehydration is the development of heatstroke. Heatstroke is a serious heat-related illness that occurs when your body temperature increases to a point where it can no longer cool itself down. When your body reaches a point of heatstroke, its ability to produce sweat – the body’s cooling method – fails. Heatstroke is caused by extended exposure to high temperatures and can result in a person falling unconscious – it can even be life-threatening. Signs and symptoms can vary and include red and hot skin, a strong pulse, rapid and loud breathing, and a high body temperature.
By keeping your body cool, staying hydrated, and avoiding the sun’s harsh rays wherever possible, you can greatly minimise your risk of developing a heat-related illness.
When outside, do your best to find shaded areas, and if shade isn’t available, make sure you take regular breaks from direct sunlight.
Always wear a hat and sunglasses, as well as cool and breathable clothing to minimise your skin’s exposure to the sun, and make sure to lather up in a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Good options include La Roche-Posay Sunscreen SPF 50+, Cancer Council Ultra Sunscreen SPF50+ or Chemists’ Own Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 50 .
Drinking plenty of water is key to avoiding dehydration and staying cool. Most adults lose around 2.5 to 3 litres of water each day, and this amount generally increases on hot days as our bodies sweat more to keep cool. If you’re looking to up your fluid intake ahead of a particularly hot day, consider including more water-based fruits and vegetables into your diet – such as cucumber, celery and watermelon.
If you do notice the symptoms of heatstroke, dehydration or sunburn advancing, it’s important to take immediate action and retreat to a cool, shaded area away from the sun.
Head home, take a cool bath or shower, or use ice packs to lower your temperature. It’s important to monitor your symptoms and contact a health professional if your condition worsens or doesn’t improve.
The reddening of your skin means you likely have a case of sunburn developing. Head inside or to the shade, and apply an aloe vera solution – such as Chemists’ Own After-Sun Gel with Aloe Vera – to help soothe the skin and prevent peeling.
While it’s great to try and stay hydrated naturally, every now and again, especially if you find yourself outdoors for a long period of time on a hot day, a little extra support is needed. If you experience symptoms of dehydration, consider an electrolyte product such as, APOHEALTH Effervescent Electrolyte Tablets or Hydralyte Electrolyte Tablets which can boost your electrolyte levels and assist in hydration. Electrolyte tablets and drinks are available at most community pharmacies but remember it’s always best to speak to a pharmacist when introducing any kind of medication or supplement – even if this isn’t a