How to Stay Cool When It’s Hot

Exercising outdoors this summer? Protect yourself from heat-related illnesses.

Working out when it’s hot isn’t such a hot idea. Just ask Bret Nicks, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

“Exercising in high temperatures can limit your body’s ability to cool itself, especially if you aren’t acclimated,” Nicks said. “That can result in serious health risks, the most severe being heatstroke. Left untreated, heatstroke can cause major – and often permanent – damage to your brain, vital organs and muscles.”

Nicks shares the following tips to help you avoid heat-related illnesses when exercising outdoors.

Be Proactive

Check with your doctor to make sure that any medical conditions you may have or medications that you’re taking will not increase your sensitivity to the heat.

Know the Symptoms

They include, but are not limited to:

  • Heavy sweating or inability to sweat
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Seizures

Wear Light-colored, Loose-fitting Clothes

Consider items made of wicking material, which can help keep you cooler.

Use Sun Protection

Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat whenever possible. Avoid sunburn, which decreases your skin’s natural cooling processes.

Drink Water Early and Often

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Pre-hydrating and continuously replacing fluids and electrolytes is essential.

Avoid Peak Sun Times

If at all possible, exercise in the morning or evening. It’s better to miss a workout than to harm your body by pushing too hard during the middle of the day.

Listen to Your Body

If you’re cramping, feeling disoriented or nauseous, or having difficulty breathing, stop, get to a cool place, seek help and call 911 as needed.

“Working out in the heat can be a very serious matter,” Nicks said. “Thankfully, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.”