by Sara Brandmeyer, Certified Personal Trainer, NASM CPT, NASM WFS

One of the best parts of summer is enjoying the outdoors and indulging in the warm summer sun rays. As summer comes to an end, the month of August can be jammed packed with afternoon barbeques, full days at the park and zoo, playing in the pool, beach vacations and even outdoor workouts. Unfortunately, August often brings brutally high temperatures and the danger of heat-related illnesses. It is very important to pay extra close attention to yourself, and your children and pets, while you are spending extended periods of time outside and to watch for signs of overheating.

Tips to Avoid Heat Stress:
Don’t worry, you can still enjoy the last few weeks of summer outdoors; just make sure to follow these tips!

:: Water: Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! It is important to drink water every 15 minutes while you are in excessive heat. Steer clear of caffeinated beverages and alcohol as these are diuretics, which increase the body’s flow of urine. Be proactive and drink water before you feel thirsty.
:: Clothing: When choosing what to wear, make sure to pick clothes that are loose-fitted, have light colors and are lightweight. Wear a hat and/or SPF 15 (minimum) on your face and shoulders. Avoid layers to keep cool. 
:: Activity: Slow down! Keep in mind that your body needs to move a little slower in the heat. If you plan on spending the day outside, set aside time to take rests in the shade and let your body cool down. If you plan on working out in the outdoors, be sure to reduce your normal intensity levels and take longer rests.
:: Air Quality: As temperatures increase, air quality decreases. This decrease in air quality can make breathing difficult for those who already have respiratory ailments or heart problems. It can even put healthy people at a greater risk for respiratory infections. 

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke:
It is important to know the difference between these heat-related illnesses, so you can watch for signs and symptoms in yourself and your children.
Heat Exhaustion is caused by depletion of body fluids and electrolytes. 
:: Signs & Symptoms include: Heavy sweating, weakness, cold and clammy skin, nausea or vomiting, rapid and weak pulse and fainting 

Heat Stroke is caused by environmental conditions, making the body unable to keep its temperature within safe boundaries.
:: Signs & Symptoms include: High body temperature (above 103°F), hot and red skin, rapid and strong pulse, possible unconsciousness
What You Should Do:
If you believe you (or someone near you) has heatstroke:
:: Most importantly, move the person to a cooler location immediately
:: Lie them down and loosen clothing
:: Apply cool, wet cloths to the person’s skin to reduce his/her body temperature
:: Have the person slowly sip water

If you believe a person has heatstroke:
:: Remain calm
:: Follow the same steps listed above, however do NOT give the person fluids
:: Call 911 immediately

It's impossible to overstate the importance of educating yourself about ways to keep you and your loved ones safe during the hottest months of the year. Don’t let the hot weather quickly go from fun to dangerous!