Staying healthy during summer

WHO/Anupam Pal, India, WHO Photo & Video contest "Images of Health and Disability 2007"

It’s the peak of summer and people are trying to indulge in great holidays, the “cool biz” activities and healthy outdoor exercises. Yet, caution is necessary as exposure to extreme heat can be damaging to health, and may endanger the lives of the more vulnerable: babies, young children, older people, the poor, the homeless, the medically frail, and those with disabilities. The fact is that any person can be at increased risk from heat, especially for those who participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

The external environment and a person’s own health situation can affect the body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. For example, when the humidity is high, sweat won't be able to evaporate as fast as it may need to release heat. Another example is that among older people, underlying cardio-vascular and respiratory diseases can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough vis-à-vis high ambient temperature.

In general, extreme weather and climate events, interacting with the conditions in which people live can lead to risks like other natural disasters in terms of impact.

Nevertheless, there are policies, programmes, practical measures and capacity building tools that can help cities and communities in being more resilient against climate and disaster risks. Governments worldwide have been developing operational frameworks to address heat exposure and that these can be integrated into broader emergency and disaster management systems.

In order to make each working and living day comfortable and productive, the following are some proposed tips for dealing with heat during summer:

1. Be prepared to adapt to heat and behave appropriately

  • Drink lots of fresh water, regularly.
  • Wear smart, lightweight, short-sleeved, loose-fitting, cotton clothing (Practise “cool business”/”cool biz”).
  • Use sun protective products when outdoors.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables; avoid heavy meals, alcoholic drinks and too much coffee.
  • Refrain from smoking.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of heat disorders and be ready to give first aid treatment, as appropriate.

2. Pay attention to your environment

  • Adjust the setting of your air conditioner at home or in the office as close to the outdoor temperature as possible, up to 28°C. Use of fans is encouraged.
  • During the hotter times of the day, keep your windows shaded, if there is direct exposure to the sun.
  • Turn off unnecessary heat-producing devices (e.g., incandescent light bulbs, etc).
  • Keep yourself informed of health advisories by listening to local weather and news channels or by contacting local health departments.

Every summer promises to be a season of health and fun. Being informed and prepared to reduce heat-related risks guarantees staying well during summer 2012 and the next summers to come.