Playing it safe in the summer sun: how to maintain your active lifestyle

For many, summer means long days filled with sports, outdoor adventures, and family outings. But recent heat advisories in our area and across the country remind us that it’s crucial to make safety a priority when seeking summer fun.

Dr. Kevin Gebke, a family and sports medicine physician with Indiana University Health Physicians, urges people to be aware of the warning signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and the life-threatening condition of heatstroke.

Heat cramps: Muscular pains and spasms, caused by exposure to high heat and humidity and loss of fluids and electrolytes. Stay hydrated. “It’s important for people to plan ahead,” said Gebke, adding that sports drinks help people replace lost electrolytes.

Heat exhaustion: Typically includes loss of fluids through heavy sweating during strenuous exercise or physical labor. Signs can include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, headache, nausea, and dizziness. “If people start to have neurological changes and confusion, that’s really an emergency situation,” Gebke said. People should discontinue activity and get to a cooler environment. They should drink cold water and, if possible, submerge in cold water.

Heatstroke: This is a life-threatening condition where the body is unable to cool itself. Signs include hot, red skin, changes in consciousness, vomiting and high body temperature. In this situation, call 911 as soon as possible. Again, discontinue activity and seek a cooler environment. Drink cold water and be submerged in cold water while awaiting emergency medical help.

So drink plenty of water, look for the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and know how to respond. Be safe out there in the summer sun!

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