It’s summer which means family road trip time! This is an important safety message that I thought about while starting our month long vacation in the hot weather. Here are few tips about staying safe in the summer heat. The tips were originally posted here in the Reader’s Digest Magazine. I learned how to reach out to these magazines and websites recently and I plan to share some tips on how you can too!
By Dr. Michael Mulick, DO
I walked out of the hospital and put my fist in the air to celebrate some more parental leave time! Little did I know this time off was not going to feel like vacation. It’s hot, really hot! Our beautiful trees and plants were burned from the record heat–117 degrees at our house!
We loaded up the used mint green 2008 Toyota Sienna–known to us as Mint Julep or Mint Julie–we’re not sure yet.
We installed one slightly anxious Border Collie and two two sick children–coughing and sniffling from some terrible summer cold.
We slithered our way to las Vegas in extreme heat. The two year old had a screaming fit that lasted one full hour, the infant did well, and the dog didn’t complain at all. My wife and I were dehydrated and wrecked at the end of the 6 hour ordeal.
This drive left me feeling debilitated for a few days. I deal with unusual temperature changes in my patients on a daily basis where I cool them down to 65 degrees and back to normal again. I also train and compete in Ironman triathlons here in the debilitating Los Angeles summer heat. I also climb the world’s tallest mountains such as Kilimanjaro, Denali, Aconcagua, and have been on Everest (have not not climbed it yet). So temperature is a special concept for me both at work and at play.
Heat stroke: this is the worst and can cause death. A preventable death is unacceptable. This happens because brain temperature gets too high and the body cannot keep up with the physiologic demands of its most basic needs let alone while exercising. Call 911, move the person to a cool place. There are stories of high school students dying of heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion: this is more mild but still serious and can lead to death. This affects everyone and even elderly who do their normal activities can get seriously sick fast!
Accidents can happen when we get dehydrated and uncomfortable we might not make the best decisions and we could be at risk of crashing our bicycle, getting hit by a car, or falling down.
“Nobody is immune to the deadly effects of heat.”
1. Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate! I probably can’t say it enough. Almost nobody drinks enough water. Start hydrating a few days early before you expect to be traveling or competing in the heat. Eat and drink every hour, and make sure you are urinating each hour and more toward the clear color rather than darker yellow. There are other hazards such as hyponatremia and rhabdomyolysis which are more rare but can easily happen to extremely fit people who exercise in the heat.
2. Go easy. I train for Ironman triathlons in the heat but I am very careful and I take it very slow. If you are an athlete and will be working out in the heat: be VERY careful, slow down, use a heart rate monitor,
3. Protect your skin! People do not use enough sun block. It helps reduce the risk of skin cancer and it your skin will look better. Use the higher number SPF and reapply
4. Look out for others. Ok, you get the idea now get the message out to other people. Watch for the signs of heatstroke in other people.
The bottom line is that nobody is immune to the deadly effects of heat. Understand that on a hot day a very fit runner might have to walk a bit to allow the body to protect itself.
Dr. Michael Mulick, DO
What do you think? Got any tips for staying safe in the heat? Want to hear any tips for surviving a road trip with young children?