Tips for avoiding heat-related illness

The summer months offer plenty of opportunities to get exercise and enjoy being active, but it’s important to protect yourself from the heat during these long, warm days. Here are some tips from United Healthcare to help you avoid heat-related illness:

1. Exercise in the early morning or late evening hours. The temperature is the coolest at this time. Avoid exercising midday because it’s the hottest part of the day.

2. Drink up! Do not wait until you are thirsty to start hydrating. Drink two to four glasses of water each hour. If you are exercising for an extended period of time, drink a sports beverage to replace the salt and minerals you lose through sweat. If you are on diuretics or a low-salt or fluid-restricted diet, talk to your doctor first about your specific fluid needs.

3. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Consider dressing in clothes made with moisture-wicking fabric.

4. Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher. Try to exercise in the shade. Play tennis on a court shaded by the trees or take a walk in a wooded park.

5. Rest early and often. Take breaks in shady areas.

6. Gradually get used to the heat. It takes seven to 10 days for your body to adapt to the change in temperature. Start by exercising for short time, at a low intensity. Save long, hard workouts until after you’re acclimated to the summer air.

7. Mind the weather. Do not exercise on the hottest days. Keep an eye on the heat index. The heat index is a calculation of the temperature and humidity. It measures “how hot it really feels” outside:

  • Heat index 80 to 90 degrees: fatigue during exercise is possible. Heat exhaustion is a possibility even at these temperatures.
  • Heat index of 90 to 105 degrees: heat cramps and heat exhaustion or heat stroke are possible.
  • Heat index of 105 or higher: heat exhaustion is likely and heat stroke is possible.

If you start to feel bad during your exercise, or you experience any warning signs of heat-related illness, stop! Heat-related illness is serious, and can even be life-threatening. Symptoms include weakness, dizziness, confusion, headaches, cramps, nausea and dehydration.