Question: Now that the temperatures have reached the 100-degree or more mark, am I in danger of heat stroke if I continue to enjoy my outdoor activities, like hiking or mountain biking?
Answer: First, you should understand a little about heat stroke. Heat stroke is a medical condition that happens when the body becomes unable to control its temperature, losing its ability to sweat, and is therefore unable to cool down. Typically, in heat stroke related cases, body temperatures rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. This is a very serious condition and can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided quickly.
Heat stroke can happen year-round and is not relegated to only the summer months. In Arizona, where the dry, summer temperatures reach above the 110-degree mark regularly, it is certainly easier for outdoor enthusiasts to develop heat stroke as the body has no breeze or precipitation from humidity to help cool itself.
You can continue to enjoy your outdoors in the summer however, if you are smart about it.
No. 1 on your list of “must do’s”? Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to replenish what the body loses through perspiration. Sports drinks are an excellent way to replenish electrolytes and minerals lost to perspiration but water, and lots of it, is extremely important.
Secondly, avoid outside activity at the hottest part of the day. If you exercise outside, do so in the early morning (before 7 a.m.) or just before sundown when the sun’s rays aren’t directly above you.
Most importantly, pay attention to your body. The warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stress are easy to spot: dizziness, cramping, heavy sweating, headache, and nausea or vomiting.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, head to an air-conditioned location—preferably an air conditioning vent—or find some shade and drink plenty of water. Cool showers or baths also help. I don’t recommend swimming if you are dizzy or cramping but if you have a pool with a shallow sitting area or are with someone who can save you in case of incident, a pool is a great way to cool down.
If the conditions persist or you can’t seem to cool off, head to your nearest emergency department.