Brookwood Baptist Health Blog

Stories and tips for a healthy lifestyle

Staying Healthy in the Alabama Heat

Sep 1, 2017

The heat in Alabama is no joke. From temperatures in the 90s to high humidity, it can be hard to handle, and dangerous to your health as well. Lynn Maiden, CRNP at BBH Primary Care Network – The Narrows, says that the primary health issues related to summer heat can be boiled down to two things – dehydration and sun exposure.

“Most of the heat-related illnesses we deal with involve dehydration and sun exposure,” said Maiden. “This includes conditions such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sun burn. These conditions can start as minor ailments, but left unattended, can become very serious.”

According to Maiden, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are extreme forms of dehydration, where your body is not taking in the fluids it needs and cells become dehydrated, meaning your body is unable to perspire and cool down.

“Children and the elderly are especially at risk for these conditions,” said Maiden, though anyone who works in the heat should be aware. “In reality, the higher the humidity, the greater the risk of developing dehydration. When we have days with a heat index over 100 due to high humidity, those are days to be especially aware of staying hydrated and out of the sun.”

The best way to avoid these illnesses is the make sure you’re protected from the sun and staying hydrated. Maiden suggested using a good sunscreen, appropriately applied, to combat sun exposure. How do you know what is the appropriate amount? “I personally like the Teaspoon Rule for measuring sunscreen,” said Maiden. “Use one teaspoon of sunscreen on the face and neck, two teaspoons on the chest and back, two teaspoons on each arm and leg. And don’t forget to reapply!”

And just because you’re in the shade doesn’t mean that you can’t get dehydrated. Maiden suggests drinking lots of water, even if you’re drinking other things like beer or punch. “Sometimes those other drinks can actually dehydrate you more, so if you’re thirsty, drink water,” said Maiden.

Maiden said it’s common to not notice symptoms of a heat illness in yourself, so it is important to know and watch for the signs. If you or someone around you starts experiencing the following symptoms, it may be due to heat-related illnesses:

  • Light-headedness
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Passing out

Maiden stresses the importance of trying to cool the body if any of these symptoms appear, even if you don’t notice them yourself. “Put ice around the neck and other trigger points, such as under the arms and in the groin area. That is the quickest way to cool someone down. Make them drink water, and if they don’t start feeling better within a couple of minutes, take them to the doctor.”