Soaring temps don't only make you uncomfortable – they can be dangerous

Sweating woman holding up her hair in frustration With summer in full swing, most of the country is getting more than its fair share of hot days. Depending on where you live, you may also have to deal with high humidity, poor air quality or extreme heat, with heat indices of over 100 degrees. All this heat can be more than just an uncomfortable annoyance – it can be dangerous to your health.

Everyone needs to be careful when it's hot, but if you or someone you love falls into one of these categories, the risk of heat-related health problems is higher than average so extra precautions should be taken:

  • Babies and young children – Young children are less efficient at regulating their body temperature than adults due to a smaller cardiovascular output and higher metabolic rate. They also may not have the knowledge or resources to be able to take precautions from the heat.
  • Older adults – Seniors may have health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or kidney disease, making it harder for their body to regulate temperature. Medications may also leave them less adaptable to the heat. If older adults are socially isolated or have dementia, they may be less likely to know what to do to keep themselves safe in extreme heat.
  • Pregnant people – Core body temperature may be higher in pregnant people and it may also be harder for a pregnant body to cool down. Not only can heat cause discomfort due to excessive sweating or heat rash, but prolonged heat exposure may put mother and baby at risk for health issues.
  • People with certain health conditions – If you have cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes or other health conditions, it can be harder for your body to regulate temperature. Your heart may beat faster to pump more blood to your skin to help you cool off, which may make you tired or leave you feeling sluggish. Your blood pressure may also drop as you sweat or if you're dehydrated, which can cause you to feel dizzy or pass out.
  • People who work outdoors – People who make their living outdoors are more at risk when it's hot outside. They may not be able to escape from the heat, may be exposed to the sun for long periods, may need to wear clothing that traps the heat and may be performing strenuous activities. Construction workers, road crews, first responders and professional athletes are among those who need to take extra precautions in the heat.
  • People with limited resources – People experiencing homelessness or who live in low-income communities may have more exposure to excessive heat, with fewer options available to cool off, such as air conditioning.

In addition to any discomfort caused by sweating or heat rash, excessive heat can lead to dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which is a medical emergency. Take precautions to keep yourself as cool as possible when the heat is on by staying out of the sun, spending time in an air-conditioned location, drinking lots of water (even if you're not thirsty), avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and wearing lightweight light-colored clothing.

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Date Last Reviewed: June 20, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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