Baystate Emergency Chief Offers Tips to Keep Cool in Summer Heat

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Joseph Schmidt, Baystate Medical Center’s vice chair and chief of Emergency Medicine, offers the following ways to keep cool in the blistering heat of the summer:

• If you don’t have an air conditioner, go to the mall or a movie theater, or consider staying with a friend who has AC until the high temperatures cool down.

• Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors. Stay away from polyester in favor of cotton and linens, which are better at repelling the sun’s heat.

• Unless otherwise directed by your physician, drink plenty of liquids. Begin drinking before you go outside, and, if exercising, drink one quart of liquid an hour to replace lost fluid. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, which can contribute to the loss of more body fluid.

• It goes without saying — stay out of the heat! But if you work outdoors, in addition to drinking plenty of liquids and dressing appropriately, pace yourself and take frequent short breaks in the shade.

• Instead of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, eat smaller meals more frequently on days when the sun turns up the heat. Also, avoid high-protein foods, which can increase metabolic heat.

• Heat rises. So sleep downstairs when the temperatures are unbearable. Wear light bedclothes and light pajamas. If you don’t have an air conditioner, and fans just aren’t doing the trick, consider asking family or friends who do have an air conditioner if you can stay with them for a few nights.

Finally, a couple notes on medications. Whether in the high heat or even in the winter’s freezing cold, extreme temperatures can physically change your medications and affect their potency, which can jeopardize your health. Medications should be stored at room temperature, which is defined as between 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit — making your hot car not the place to leave prescription or over-the-counter medications in the summer.

If you are taking certain medications, whether prescription or over the counter, sunlight may not be the best for you. Certain drugs can impair your ability to deal with the heat and increase your sensitivity to sunlight called drug-induced photosensitivity. As a result, your skin can burn at a much quicker rate than usual, even with a lower intensity of sunlight.

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