Merrill Insurance Guide to Florida Summer Heat Safety
Florida’s high temperatures and humidity – especially in the summertime, lasting well into September and even October – mean an increased risk of heat stress, caused when a body’s temperature rises faster than it can cool itself by sweating. Children, the elderly, and those taking certain medications are especially at risk, but heat-related illnesses can affect anyone engaging in strenuous activities during hot weather.
Dress Light: Choose light, loose-fitting clothing in fabrics like cotton, linen, or rayon. When going out in the sun, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen 30 minutes before and wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim.
Time it Right: Whenever possible, limit strenuous physical outdoor activities to the mornings and evenings, when it’s coolest. If you must be outside during peak temperatures (approximately 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm), rest frequently in the shade and stop if you start feeling dizzy or ill. This time of day is a great opportunity for a dip in one of Florida’s many springs (usually 70°F – 75°F year-round!), a visit to a local pool, or an outing somewhere air-conditioned like a movie theater, store, or library.
Water Please: Don’t wait until you’re thirsty…drink plenty of water throughout the day! You can also get the water you need from fruits and veggies like cucumber, lettuce, watermelon, oranges, and more. Avoid choices like fruit juice, soda, caffeinated drinks (in excess), or alcohol; these will actually dehydrate you. If you’ll be performing a strenuous activity or will be outside in the sun for more than a few hours, make sure you consume something such as a sports drink that will also replace electrolytes (like potassium and sodium) lost during sweating.
Know When it’s Serious:
If you’ve been in the sun for a while and notice symptoms like headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, confusion, and rapid pulse, you may be suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, both medical emergencies.
In pets, early signs of heat stroke can include rapid panting leading to excessive drooling, slowing their pace, seeking out shade, or trying to lie down, eventually progressing to vomiting or seizures. In both cases, stop the activity and seek care immediately.
Mind Your Medication: Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can have side effects that affect your body’s ability to handle the heat, including an increased risk of sunburn, reduced ability to sweat, and increasing your overall body temperature even indoors. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about any potential sun or heat interactions.
AC Isn’t A Luxury: An electric fan can provide some physical comfort, but will not prevent heat stress if the temperature is in the upper 90s – a common occurrence, and as we’ve learned during past hurricanes, often one with tragic results. If you don’t have air conditioning in your home:
Minimize your physical activity and avoid using the stove or oven to cook
Take a cool shower or bath
See if there’s a heat relief shelter nearby
Find a public space like a mall, store or library; even a few hours will keep your body’s temperature in a safer range.
Watch Your Furry Friends: Make sure they have plenty of water and a cool place to rest, whether that’s indoors or in the shade. Never leave your animal in a closed car; even in cool temperatures or with a window cracked, the temperature can rise to dangerous levels in a short time. Time daily walks to avoid peak sun, and be mindful of pavement temperatures…if it will burn your feet, it’ll hurt theirs too!
Florida is an amazing place to live and play…just practice our Florida Summer Heat Safety tips, and be safe and be smart as you make your Sunshine State memories!