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Just as dressing for the winter can be challenging, dealing with the summer heat also has its hurdles. The good news is that with the proper preparation, you can be active in the summer heat without overheating.

This article gives you information about:

  • How your body naturally keeps cool
  • How clothes fit into the cooling picture
  • Tips for staying cool and safe as you’re active in the heat
  • How to spot and treat heat exhaustion

How your body naturally keeps cool
When you’re at rest, your body keeps cool by radiating heat into the surrounding environment.

When you’re active, your body creates extra heat. To get rid of the extra heat, your body pumps more blood to the surface of your skin. This helps to radiate more heat away from the centre of your body and out into the environment. This is also why your face gets red when you’re active.

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Your body also gets rid of the extra heat by sweating. Sweat evaporates off your skin, which helps to cool your body. Sweat is the most important way your body keeps you cool when you’re active.

Some tips to help your body with its busy job of keeping cool:

  • Don’t wipe away the sweat too much. The sweat helps you cool, and if you wipe it away you hinder the cooling process.
  • Take advantage of breezes. Breezes help to take away your extra body heat.
  • Hang out in the shade. It’s always cooler in the shade.

The “cool” thing about being physically active on a regular basis is that your body learns to cool itself better and more quickly:

  • Your body is quicker to figure out when it’s hot.
  • You sweat sooner, which begins the cooling evaporation process sooner.
  • Sweat glands produce more sweat, allowing more heat to be carried away.
  • More blood vessels form near your skin, which helps to radiate that extra heat away from the centre of your body.

How clothes fit into the cooling picture
Clothes work against your body’s cooling systems. They block the radiating heat that’s trying to leave your body.

As tempting as our birthday suits are during the sweltering summer months, we have to stick with what our closet has to offer. Fortunately, some clothes make it easier to stay cool.

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Here are some tips:

  • Bring out the whites and pastels. Light-coloured fabrics reflect the sun’s rays.
  • Avoid layers and tight-fitting clothing. They trap heat close to your body.
  • Wear lightweight, breathable fabrics such as cotton, linen and synthetics. Research has shown that cotton is just as good as synthetics at keeping us cool.
  • Keep wearing clothes that have gotten wet. Whether your clothes are wet from sweat or that impromptu water fight, keep wearing them while you’re in the heat. The sweat or water will evaporate and help to keep you cool.

Tips for staying cool and safe as you’re active in the heat
Avoid peak sun hours (11 a.m.-2 p.m.), and stay in the shade when you can.

You need to replace the fluid and minerals you lose through sweating. So, if you plan to be active for over an hour, have a snack like a granola bar or some fruit and drink lots of fluids.

Here are some guidelines for fluid replacement:

  • Drink 400-600 ml of water two hours before you get active, and if it’s hot out, add another 250-500 ml.
  • During exercise you should drink 150-350 ml of water every 15-20 minutes.
  • Drink up after you finish exercising too.
  • Water is recommended only if you’re physically active for less than an hour. If you’re active for longer than an hour, you should drink a sports drink that contains carbohydrates and electrolytes.

It’s easier for adults than children to keep cool. We adults have more skin, so we can radiate more heat and evaporate more sweat. So keep an eye on the kids when it’s hot out. They will heat up and need to replace fluid faster than you.

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How to spot and treat heat exhaustion
Too much heat can lead to heat exhaustion, a dangerous heat-related condition.

Signs of heat exhaustion:

  • profuse sweating
  • pale skin
  • cool, moist skin
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • fast, weak pulse
  • headache
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • dizziness, weakness or fainting
  • cramps
  • exhaustion

If someone experiences these symptoms, it’s important to take action right away. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a serious condition that can lead to death.

Move the person to a shady or cooler area and position them so they’re lying comfortably. Get them to drink lots of cold fluids, and remove extra clothing and sports equipment. You should also try to cool them with cold water, cold towels and fans.

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If heat exhaustion symptoms do not improve in an hour, you should seek medical attention. If symptoms are severe, and especially if the person stops sweating or seems confused and disoriented, get medical help right away.

Here in Alberta, we have a short summer, and of course we want to make the most of activities and fun in the sun. Be active, have fun and stay safe.

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Learn more
Heat Exhaustion
This article from the Mayo Clinic explains what heat exhaustion is and how to treat it.

Heatstroke
This article from the Mayo Clinic explains what heatstroke is and how to treat it.

Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?
Drinking water is key to keeping cool. This article from the Mayo Clinic explains how much water you should be drinking during exercise as well as in other scenarios.

Hydration and Heat Illness Guidelines
Guidelines from the U.S. Soccer Federation about how to hydrate and prevent heat illness.

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