There has been record-setting heat across the U.S. this summer. In New England, we have already experienced many days with temperatures above 90 degrees. And this hot weather will likely continue into August and even September.
Heat can make it difficult to enjoy the summertime, especially for people with chronic conditions. Extreme heat can be dangerous, too. The Centers for Disease Control says that older adults, young children, and people with chronic conditions are at high risk for heat-related illness and death.
These six tips can help you stay cool and hydrated to avoid heat-related health problems when it’s hot outside.
If it gets too hot, find a shady tree where you can take a break. The shade of trees is cooler than the shade of buildings and other man-made objects. Dark surfaces, like black pavement, are hotter than light surfaces because they absorb heat from the sun.
If you are going to be doing activities outside, make sure to do them at a slow pace so you don’t get too hot. Errands and other routine activities may be more difficult and tiresome in the heat. Give yourself extra time so you don’t have to rush.
Don’t forget to put on sunblock before you go out. Make sure you select sunblock with the appropriate SPF (sun protection factor) number. This number rates how well the sunscreen blocks UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. The CDC says you should use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 or higher. You should reapply your sunblock every two hours, and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
You can further protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat and sunglasses. Keep in mind that harmful UV rays tend to be strongest from 10am to 4pm.
Make sure to drink plenty of water when it’s hot outside, even if you aren’t thirsty. Water keeps your body from overheating.
During warm weather, your body discards heat through sweat, according to the Cleveland Clinic. When sweat evaporates, it cools you down. But lots of sweating lowers your body’s water levels, and this can affect normal bodily functions. That’s why it is important to drink water, especially when it’s hot out.
If you have ceiling fans, check which way the fan is moving. In the summer, it’s best for the fan to turn counterclockwise so that air blows down and creates a breeze on your skin. This article has some tips on how to change the direction of your fan. Make sure you get help with following these steps if you need it. You can also take a cool bath or shower to cool down.
Air conditioning is the best defense against heat-related illnesses and death. During heat waves, many cities offer air-conditioned cooling centers for the public. For example, the City of Boston has designated over a dozen cooling centers in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Mattapan, the North End, South Boston, and other neighborhoods. See the full list here.
If you live outside of Boston, contact your local health department to find cooling centers or air-conditioned shelters in your area.
Summer heat can be uncomfortable, and even dangerous for older adults and those with chronic conditions. But there are several steps you can take to stay cool, hydrated, and safe.
Stay out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day. Wear sunblock when you do go out and give yourself extra time to run errands. And drink plenty of water—even if you aren’t thirsty.