Stay Healthy, Safe and Hydrated When Temperatures Soar

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness June 24, 2014
With summer weather finally arriving, Chicagoans are being drawn out of hibernation by outdoor sports, street and music festivals and Lake Michigan’s beaches and lakefront paths. While summer is full of fun, overexposure to the heat and sun can lead to serious health concerns. To avoid the emergency room this summer, one Northwestern Medicine® physician shares some tips to keep people safe this summer.

“Even though summer is a time to enjoy the weather outside, people often underestimate the risks that come with the heat,” said Rahul Khare, MD, an emergency physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  “Every summer, we see hundreds of patients with heat-related illnesses.  And most of the time those trips to the emergency room could have been completely avoided with the proper precautions.”


While overheating can occur in anyone, the elderly, young children and people with certain medical conditions are at a higher risk..  For those most susceptible, Khare recommends avoiding hot environments and staying hydrated.

“Don’t be so eager to get outside that you are unprepared,” said Khare, who is also an associate professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  “We want you to have a fun and active summer, but we don’t want to see you in the emergency room.”

Khare suggests the following tips for staying safe in the heat and sun.

  1. Hydrate: Drinking water is one of the best and simplest things you can do for your health.  Drinks like coffee, energy drinks and soda contain caffeine, which causes dehydration. Alcohol also causes dehydration and should be avoided in extreme heat. When outdoors in the summer, always drink plenty of water or sports drinks to replenish necessary bodily fluids.
  2. Sunscreen is a must: When heading out for the day, protect your skin from sunburn.  Apply a sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or more every two hours. Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied more often when swimming. 
  3. Keep it cool and check the clock: The sun’s strongest hours are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so avoid the outdoors during these peak hours or find shade under a tree. 
  4. Dress for success: When the temperatures rise, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes are the best options for staying cool. A wide-brimmed hat will also help protect the face and scalp from sun exposure. 
  5. Avoid humidity: Humidity can keep sweat from evaporating, hindering the body’s internal cooling system from working properly.  Remember to check the weather forecast and plan your day around the predictions. 
  6. Check yourself: Spending too much time in the sun can leave you feeling light headed, dizzy or even nauseous.  If you begin to feel any of these symptoms tell someone, head for a cool environment and hydrate. Both the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago offer cooling centers during the summer months. Find a listing of cooling centers in your state* or city*.

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