It was glorious to the see so many people soaking up the sun last weekend at our local parks and lakes. But some people may have already started to feel uncomfortable with temperatures in the low 90s: headaches, feeling a little weaker, maybe even having a muscle cramp or dizziness.
The mild Pacific Northwest climate makes us more sensitive to heat, especially after a long stretch of cold and wet weather. Some people feel it more than others and need to take extra care in warmer weather. When it’s hot, our region sees a spike in the number of people who have serious health problems like heart attacks, stroke, and kidney failure. It’s a good reminder now to figure out if you’re more prone to overheating, before even hotter weather arrives.
Are you more likely to have serious health problems in the heat?
Some people are at higher risk for serious health problems on hot days and should take extra precautions to stay cool, drink water, and take breaks from the heat:
- Older adults (65 and older)
- Young children
- People with chronic health conditions or mental illness
- Athletes who exercise outdoors
- Outdoor workers
- People living unsheltered or homeless
Medications can make it harder to stay hydrated and regulate body temperature, including those for allergies and colds, thyroid, depression, heart/blood pressure, and weight loss.
Check with your doctor to see if your health conditions or medications make you more sensitive to heat.
If you are more sensitive to heat, make sure to pay attention to how you’re feeling on warmer days. Signs that your body isn’t cooling quickly enough include muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting. If you think that you may be overheating, move to the shade or cooler location, put your feet up and rest, and drink cool water.
- Spend time in air-conditioned buildings (such as malls, movie theaters, or libraries) if you can, and avoid direct exposure to sunlight.
- Turn on a fan with a bowl of ice under it.
- Reduce physical activity and move to shaded areas.
- Do outdoor activities in the cooler morning or evening hours.
- Cool your body down quickly by wearing a wet scarf, bandana, or shirt.
For more information
For more tips about how to stay cool and safe in the heat, visit www.kingcounty.gov/BeatTheHeat.
Contributor Meredith Li-Vollmer is a risk communications specialist at Public Health—Seattle & King County.
This article was originally posted in Public Health Insider on June 27, 2022.