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Tips to beat heat-related illness

Dog in car

Don't leave people or pets in a vehicle in the heat. Temperatures can climb 20 degrees in 10 minutes, even with the window cracked or open. iStock image

After a rainy May, June arrived with several hot, humid days and the chance of heat-related illness. Officials are reminding residents about things they can do to protect themselves this summer.

“Texas summers heat up quickly. Children are more susceptible than adults to many things, including extreme temperatures,” said Steven McGraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. “We are urging Texans to take every measure possible to have a safe season. Heat-related injuries and deaths are often preventable, and we all need to be vigilant in protecting ourselves and others.”

An important part of staying safe in the heat is hydration, especially if spending time outside. 

Terri Thompson, director of Marble Falls Air Evac base programs, said people should have water readily available and plan ahead to make sure they’re drinking enough water to replenish fluids lost during activities.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, active people should drink at least 16-20 ounces of water or fluids one to two hours before participating in outdoor activities. Once a person is outside and active, drinking 6-12 ounces of fluids every 10-15 minutes is recommended, Thompson pointed out.

And once a person is done with the activity or goes indoors, Thompson said they should drink more water or fluids to replace those lost to perspiration and regular body uses.

The DPS also recommends people steer clear of alcohol and beverages high in caffeine and sugar during prolonged periods outdoors in the heat.

Taking breaks is also important while outside. Thompson reminded people to pay attention to their body and heed warnings such as feeling lightheaded or overheated or if a headache develops. These are warning signs that something is not right, she said.

Another option is to avoid outdoor activities during peak times of heat during the day. If that’s not possible, the DPS and health officials recommend people wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes and a hat. Also, they advocate using sunscreen to protect against the sun’s harmful rays. Sunburns can affect the body’s ability to cool down.

McGraw also stressed the importance of not leaving people or pets in a hot vehicle, especially unattended children. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the temperature in a vehicle can climb 20 degrees in just 10 minutes when it’s parked and the air conditioning isn’t running. 

“Cracking or rolling down a window makes little difference in reducing the rising temperatures in a vehicle. You should never leave a child alone in a vehicle, no matter the circumstances,” according to a DPS media release. “If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately, and emergency personnel will provide guidance.”

Officials also remind people to be wary of walking pets in the heat of the day as hot sidewalks and asphalt can harm their paws. A good rule of thumb is if the asphalt, concrete, or other surface is too hot or unbearable for a person’s feet, then it’s too hot for a pet’s feet. It’s best to walk dogs during the morning hours when the sun hasn’t heated up surfaces. 

Also, people should check on elderly family, friends, and neighbors and others who don’t have air conditioning.