We Illinoisans are so used to being stuck working out indoors during the long, frigid winter months that when summer arrives, we’re ready to ditch the gym and pound the pavement. With summer, however, comes heat, humidity and the threat of heat illnesses. Here’s what you need to know to exercise safely this summer.
Check the heat index
A heat index chart takes into account the temperature and humidity. For example, if it’s 85 degrees with 60% humidity, it actually feels like 90 degrees, putting you in danger of heat illnesses. Keep in mind it takes the body several days to acclimate to hot weather, so you may have to take it easy at first.
Exercise in cooler places
Running on a shady forest path or along a lake can be several degrees cooler than your neighborhood. Or, try activities that cool you off as you exercise, such as swimming or biking into the wind. Also, try monitoring the weather and work out during the coolest part of the day.
You might be thinking “duh,” but did you know you should be drinking fluids before, during, and after exercise, even if you do not feel thirsty? Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and seek medical help if you or someone you know is showing symptoms of heat stroke. If you think you’ve overdone it, home care is appropriate for mild forms of heat exhaustion. You should stop exercising, drink plenty of water, lie down with your feet elevated, cool your body with wet towels or ice packs and continue to monitor your body temperature.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion
-cold and clammy skin
-dizziness, blurred vision
-weakness, fatigue or fainting
A heat stroke is similar to heat exhaustion but more severe. People suffering from heat stroke should seek immediate medical attention to avoid permanent oxygen damage. Symptoms include:
-a body temperature over 104 degrees
-red or flushed dry skin
-difficulty breathing or irregular breathing
-hallucinations or unconsciousness