10 Tips for Preventing Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

Stay hydrated, wear light-colored clothing, and more ways to stay safe and healthy during the long, hot summer.

man drinking to prevent heatstroke
man drinking to prevent heatstroke

Throughout the country, summers are getting hotter and hotter. The rising temperatures can put the desire to enjoy the outdoors at odds with the reality of needing to stay sheltered and cool. Dr. Alexis Halpern, an emergency department physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, says one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with the heat is that people often don’t know when they’re becoming dehydrated or overheated. This can result in heat exhaustion, which can create a feeling of anxiety and cause a slow or weakened heartbeat, or even heatstroke, which can result in loss of consciousness or convulsions.

“For this reason, it’s important to think about these things ahead of time and plan for them, or just avoid the outdoors altogether,” Dr. Halpern says.

Here, Dr. Halpern shares her advice for preventing heat-related illnesses and helping to make this summer season the pleasure it’s meant to be.

  • Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, which contributes to dehydration and might keep you from hydrating well. Caffeinated beverages, soda, and fruit juice, can all be diuretics, but are better than not drinking at all to keep you hydrated.
  • Help replace lost fluids from your body by drinking more than your usual water or sports drinks. Consuming electrolyte rich fluids instead of just water is really important.
  • Try to limit exercise and other forms of exertion to cooler periods of the day, either early morning or in the evening.
  • Rest if you feel tired or weak.
  • Be aware that some medications may make you more vulnerable to dehydration. Check with your doctor about which ones to watch out for.
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
  • Apply wet towels to your neck or wear a wet headband to help beat the heat.
  • If the air temperature is more than 95 degrees Fahrenheit, fans may be ineffective at cooling. Use air conditioning instead.
  • In these extreme temperatures, try to avoid being outside or in direct sunlight. Try to stay inside, preferably in air-conditioned environments.
  • Check in on your elderly neighbors and those who may not be able to help themselves. Both the very young and the very old are more prone to heat-related illness and dehydration.

Lastly, Dr. Halpern suggests, “See a doctor or seek help if you start to feel extremely weak, pass out or feel as if you might, experience vomiting, have shortness of breath, stop sweating and become very red, have any change in mental status, or anything else that feels abnormal or scary. Better safe than sorry!”

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