The beach is a place where we go to enjoy the summer sun and cool off from the summer heat. Most beaches offer little shade, and sometimes during the peak summer months the water won’t even offer true refreshment from the heat.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of what the heat can do to you or others, so that way a nice day at the beach won’t become a nightmare. The good thing is that it can all be prevented with proper preparation.
The Three Phases of Heat Problems
The first sign that the heat may be negatively affecting you is heat cramps. These occur during extended periods of time in the heat, often due to activities that require a high level of energy. Playing volleyball or jogging on the beach can induce heat cramps.
Your legs, arms, or stomach may begin to cramp, causing great discomfort. If you begin to cramp up, it is best to stop whatever activity you are doing and seek shade and water, until you begin to feel better.
If you do not listen to your body, heat cramps can turn into heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion is caused by your body’s inability to cool itself off. This can be caused by hot weather, dehydration, strenuous activity, or alcohol consumption.
Whether you are suntanning, reading a book, searching for seashells, or jogging, heat exhaustion can strike.
Symptoms to look for: heavy sweating, faintness, dizziness, fatigue, weak rapid pulse, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, cool moist skin with goosebumps despite the heat*
Treatments: Seek out shade or air-conditioning, drink cool fluids, put cool water on the skin, loosen clothing**
Heatstroke is a serious condition that occurs when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees fahrenheit. (The average normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees fahrenheit.)
If heatstroke goes untreated, it can lead to permanent damage or even death.
Symptoms to look for: lack of sweat despite the heat, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate, headache, confusion, muscle cramps, weakness, unconsciousness*
Treatments: Call a doctor or ambulance ASAP, immerse in cold water, seek out cool air, use cooling blankets, use ice packs**
Who is at Risk?
Some people are at a greater risk than others when it comes to dealing with the heat. The elderly and young are at very high risk for developing heat problems, and should be closely monitored at the beach.
Certain medications can affect how your body deals with the heat, so consult with your doctor to see if any medicine you are on may cause any heat issues for you.
Any day that has a high heat index of 91 degrees fahrenheit or above is hot enough to create problems for anyone, despite your age, health or experience. So be prepared!
*All above information courtesy of Mayo Clinic.
Things to Bring to the Beach to Prevent Heat Problems
- Lots of water. If you plan on staying an extended period of time at the beach, it is best to have at least one gallon of water per adult. Make sure to use a reusable or refillable bottle to reduce plastic use.
- Sunscreen. Apply and then reapply. Try to use reef-friendly sunscreen.
- Umbrella. Umbrellas are a great way to provide some shade to your beach camp.
- Drinks with electrolytes. Drinks such as Powerade or Gatorade provide nourishment that are designed to help prevent dehydration.
- Cooler with Ice. Not only will your drinks stay cool, but you can cool down yourself and others with the ice.
- Battery-Powered Fan. These fans are easy to use and will provide a constant breeze for anyone feeling the heat. You can even buy ones that are attached to spray bottles, so you can mist yourself!
It’s important to know the risks of the heat in order to be prepared for your beach day! Stay cool and beat the beach heat!
**The Beach Review is not written by a medical physician. Any information provided here should not be substituted for a licensed physician’s opinion. If you or someone you know is suffering from any of the above, please seek professional medical help immediately.