A sun-lover’s guide for safely enjoying all your favorite outdoor activities this August
How is it August already?!
For me, a natural-born sun lover, the summer months always fly by too quickly. And I bet they do for you, too.
No matter what you enjoy—spending time in the garden; relaxing poolside or oceanside; playing a round of golf, pickleball, or tennis; watching the grandkids play at the park; taking your boat out on the water; or leisurely scenic walks…
It’s easy to get “lost in the moment” and overdo it. Especially as many of us fill these last few weeks of summer with as much outdoor FUN as possible.
But the reality is, overexposure to the heat and sun can turn dangerous, even deadly, in a matter of minutes… especially if you’re older or taking certain medications.
Let’s talk about it—including how to PROTECT yourself.
Heat exhaustion 101
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heat-related illnesses are a growing problem not just here in the United States… but everywhere.1
In the earliest stages, you experience something called heat exhaustion. It stems, of course, from overexposure to the heat and sun. But humidity also plays a role.
In fact, humidity higher than 60 percent prevents sweat from evaporating off your skin, which blocks your body’s ability to cool itself. Your body may also have trouble cooling down if you’re older, obese, or have a medical condition—such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Additionally, heat exhaustion strikes a higher proportion of people who take certain prescription drugs—such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and heart and blood pressure meds—which alter the body’s natural cooling mechanisms.
A few ordinary habits could also skyrocket your risk, including exerting a lot of energy, suddenly moving from a cool to an extremely hot location, getting a sunburn (see the sidebar on page 2 for prevention tips), and becoming dehydrated.
Here are some of the early signs to watch out for…
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: overall weakness; heavy sweating; a weak, fast pulse; nausea or vomiting; cramping; dark-colored urine; headache; rash; dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting; swelling in legs or ankles; and pale, cold, clammy skin.2,3
If you experience any of these symptoms when you’re out in the sun and heat, immediately take as many of these next steps as you can:
- Get out of the direct sun and heat. Instead, move to a cool, shaded area.
- Take a cool shower or apply a cool compress to the neck, wrists, armpits, and groin. (Blood passes close to the skin’s surface in these spots.)
- Rehydrate slowly and consistently with water. And to help replenish electrolytes, enjoy some coconut water, infuse your water with refreshing fruits or veggies (like lime, watermelon, mint, or cucumber), or add a pinch of Himalayan pink salt.
- Lie down and rest.
- Remove excess layers of clothing.
By following these steps, you should start to feel better within 15 minutes. But you’ll want to take it easy for about week. Stay out of the sun and heat as much as possible—and drink lots of fluids.
Of course, if your symptoms don’t improve, seek emergency medical help immediately, as it could mean you’re moving on to next stage of heat illness, which can turn deadly in a matter of minutes…
Beware of this dangerous
The next stage of heat illness is called heat stroke.
It occurs when your body’s sweating mechanism fails, and you can no longer cool yourself down naturally. As a result, your temperature can rise to dangerously high levels within just 10 to 15 minutes.
It represents a true medical emergency, as it can quickly lead to permanent disability—with damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, and more. Death is also a very real possibility after suffering heat stroke, especially among those older than 65.
There are several factors that make older people more prone to dying from heat stroke. That’s because seniors:
- Tend to sweat less than younger adults—and sweating is one of the body’s most important heat-regulation mechanisms
- Are more likely to have a chronic medical condition (or take a medication) that inhibits perspiration or impairs the body’s ability to regulate temperature
- Likely have established habits for dealing with the heat that might have been fine when they were younger, but no longer work well for their body’s current needs
Telltale signs of heat stroke, in addition to the ones listed for heat exhaustion, include: body temperature of 104°F or higher; a state of confusion or altered mental status; slurred speech; behavior changes; an elevated pulse; rapid breathing; hot, red skin (it can be dry, due to lack of sweating); seizures; and unconsciousness.
If you or anyone you’re with experiences any of these symptoms, you should call 911 and seek immediate medical attention. Because the earlier someone suffering from heat stroke gets treatment, the better their chance of fully recovering without serious, long-term complications.
Now, let’s move on to the best ways to PREVENT heat exhaustion and heat stroke…
Prevention begins WAY
earlier than you think
Preventing heat exhaustion and heat stroke actually begins at home, well before you go out into the sun and sweltering heat…
In fact, in the DAYS leading up to any kind of outdoor activity this month, make sure to drink extra water and avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, which can dehydrate you. (Learn more about how to avoid dehydration on page 6.)
You should also avoid eating heavy meals the day before an outdoor activity in the summer sun.4 Instead, opt for a lightly salted summer soup, like parsley gazpacho. (See my recipe in the sidebar.)
Be sure to check the heat index a day in advance as well, so you can alter your plans if needed. Here are some guidelines from the National Weather Service about the risk of heat exhaustion this summer:
- Caution: 80 to 90°F; fatigue possible
- Extreme caution: 90 to 103°F; heat stroke, heat cramps, or heat exhaustion possible
- Danger: 103 to 124°F; heat cramps or heat exhaustion likely, and heat stroke possible
- Extreme danger: 125°F or higher; heatstroke highly likely
Moreover, here are some tips you should follow the morning of your outdoor activity…
First, choose bright, loose-fitting, breathable fabrics for the day—as dark, tight, polyester-type fabrics can absorb and trap heat. Next, consider wearing a hat with a wide brim to help keep the sun off your face. Lastly, make sure to pack plenty of mineral-based sunscreen and water in your bag. (If you’re headed to the beach or pool, pack or rent an umbrella for shade.)
Now, here some important tips to follow during your day in the sun:
- Take shade breaks every hour to cool off.
- Avoid activity during the hottest part of the day, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Drink two to four cups of water every hour that you’re actively out in the sun and heat. (Do not wait until you’re “thirsty.”)
- Avoid alcohol, as it dehydrates you.
- Don’t overexert yourself.
- Wear mineral-based sunscreen or protective clothing to shield against sunburn.
- Give yourself time to acclimate to the hotter temperature. (If you’re headed to the beach this month, don’t spend a full eight hours in the hot sun on the first day. Start with one or two hours and work your way up as the week goes on to build your body’s heat tolerance.)
- Take a cool shower after coming in from the heat.
- Never leave children or pets in closed, hot spaces, such as cars, even for a minute.
As temperatures continue to climb this month in most parts of the country, you now have everything you need to SAFELY enjoy all your favorite outdoor activities… whether you’re at the beach, the park, the golf course, or your own backyard!
Sunburn prevention 101
Research shows getting a sunburn impairs your body’s ability to dissipate heat and cool off—putting you at a much higher risk of developing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
So, in addition to wearing sun-protective clothing, as outlined above, make sure to apply a mineral-based sunscreen hourly on any exposed skin when you’re out in the sun. As always, only ever choose a safe, natural, and reef-friendly product. You’ll want to look for one of two ingredients: zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. (It may not rub on so easily, but it’s better for you and the environment.)
You should also keep in mind that many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can increase your risk of getting a sunburn. In fact, several whole classes of drugs increase sun sensitivity, including: antibiotics, antifungals, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, sulfonylurea drugs (for diabetes), statins, and tricyclic antidepressants.
Ibuprofen, naproxen, and many antihistamines also increase sun sensitivity, as can certain supplements, particularly St. John’s wort.
Recipe: Parsley Gazpacho
- 2 tablespoons macadamia nut oil
- 2 small red onions (roughly chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 cups fresh parsley (minced)
- 2 avocados (peeled and pitted)
- 1 medium cucumber (sliced)
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- juice of 2 limes
- 1.5 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- 4 chives (minced)
- 4 dill sprigs
In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside to cool.
In a blender, combine the parsley, avocados, cucumber, broth, lime juice, onion-garlic mixture, paprika, oregano, and cayenne. Puree until smooth. (You may need to do this in two batches.) Add some water if desired, and season with sea salt and black pepper.
Blend again, cover, and chill in the fridge for at least
To serve, ladle into four soup bowls and garnish each serving with some chives and a sprig of dill.