They say it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. In Florida, it’s both. When temperatures rise into the mid to upper 90s, combined with the oppressive Florida humidity, it can turn your fun beach vacation into a trip to the emergency room. Ambulance calls on the island for heat-related illiness have increased in recent weeks, prompting us to write this article to remind our residents and visitors that heatstroke can sneak up on you very quickly.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, heatstroke can be life-threatening and can be attributed to thousands of deaths in this country each year. Florida temperatures can put older adults at particular risk, as aging reduces the body’s ability to cool off. However, it’s important to note that heat stress can occur at any age and is a serious concern.
Here are some common-sense tips to beat the heat in Boca Grande:
• Don’t just drink water, remember to add electrolytes!
Drink plenty of water and be sure to include electrolytes, even if you are not thirsty. It’s important to stay hydrated and sip as you go throughout the day. Remember, if you feel thirsty you’re probably already dehydrated. If you have been drinking water and don’t feel like it’s helping, it means you need electrolytes.
It’s no surprise that Gatorade, the most popular electrolyte drink, was invented at the University of Florida. Even the characters and employees at Walt Disney World are served Gatorade before and after parades instead of plain water.
Avoid caffeine and soda beverages and do watch your alcohol intake. Be sure to drink until your urine is clear and remember, staying hydrated helps you feel more energetic.
Pro tip: Carry a refillable water bottle with you at all times and use powdered electrolytes instead of Gatorade that has extra sugar. You can save money and have a healthier option by using powdered electrolytes.
• Dress appropriately, use sunscreen
There’s a reason Lilly Pulitzer is popular. It’s lightweight, light-colored, loose fitting, made of cotton, and was originally made in West Palm Beach. But you don’t have to buy Lilly to stay cool. There are lots of clothes that are Florida-appropriate.
Don’t forget to wear a hat and carry an umbrella. Blocking the sun’s harmful rays will reduce your chances of sunburn and make you feel cooler. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than getting a severe sunburn on your first day.
Pro tip: Wearing a hat or carrying an umbrella does not mean that you can skip applying sunscreen. Sunglasses aren’t just for adults. Make sure the whole family has a pair.
• Avoid the midday heat, limit activity
The sun is at its hottest between noon and 4 p.m. This is a good time to take a siesta. Also, remember that your air conditioner is your friend. Limiting vigorous activity during the hottest part of the day is advised. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, fans alone often cannot protect you against heat-related illness.
Pro tip: Take a day off from the sun and visit a cool indoor place, take in a movie or spend the afternoon at an indoor mall.
• Use cooling gadgets
Whether it is a spray bottle to mist your face, a small personal fan, an umbrella hat, or a thermo-cool neck wrap, it is a fun way to beat the heat.
Pro tips: Apply cold water to your body’s quick cooling spots (back of wrists, neck, elbows, and knees). Make your own refreshing cool spray by adding peppermint tea to your spray bottle (the menthol in the tea will give your skin a cool feeling).
Another great idea is to use aloe vera. It not only soothes sunburns, but sprays made with aloe, peppermint oil, and witch hazel cool better than just water.
• Eat light
Avoid heavy foods and opt for foods high in water content – fruits, salads, and cooling soups.
Pro tip: Freeze a baggie full of grapes, melons, mangoes, or your favorite fruit for a refreshing treat.
• Take baths, take showers
Water conducts heat away from the body, so taking frequent tepid baths or showers is a good cooling technique.
Pro tip: Utilize those showers at the beach and pool to keep cool. Beware of the cold shower. Aim for tepid water instead.
• Seek out “green” spaces
Find a garden or any patch of green. Ideally, head for one with some trees for shade. Trees block the sun and actually act as living air conditioners.
Pro tip: There are many options in the area that make lovely getaways. There is so much more to Florida than the beach and theme parks. Visit Sarasota’s Sunken Gardens or Selby Gardens or perhaps the Edison Ford Museum.
• Enjoy water play
When in Florida, swim. Whether it is the Gulf of Mexico, your hotel pool, water park, or a splash fountain, enjoy playing in the water wherever you are.
Pro tip: Inexpensive water toys can be a fun way to stay cool on a hot day. Turn on your sprinkler and turn your yard into an at-home water park.
• Don’t Neglect your Pets
Before taking your dog for a walk, check the temperature of the sidewalk. If it’s too hot for your bare feet or the palm of your hand, it’s too hot for their paws to have constant contact with the pavement.
Pro Tips: Your pets need water, too. Make sure they have plenty of water throughout the day. If you’re out for an extended walk, make sure your special friend has his or her own bottle of water.
Also, consult with your veterinarian prior shaving your thick-coated or long-haired dog. More often than not those types of dogs have coats that insulate them from the heat, and taking that insulation away can do your dog serious damage when exposed to high temperatures.
• Sleeping in the heat isn’t easy
Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging in the best of circumstances. Here are some quick tips for sleeping in the heat.
Try keeping your socks in the fridge. Popsicle toes are fabulous ways to beat the heat. Believe it or not, put some clothes on. Sleeping naked will make you feel hotter. Unplug your phone or charge in another room, turn off the television. Approach fans with caution. Once a room is hot, fans simply move the hot air. Switch your fan to the counterclockwise setting for cooler air.
• Remember, you’re in Florida
The sun can be intense in Florida, but even in the shade the heat is oppressive. If you’re used to a cooler climate or haven’t spent much time outdoors in the heat, even sitting in the shade can create heatstroke or heat stress problems. If you start to feel clammy, feel like you have stopped sweating, feel nauseous or light-headed, carefully make your way indoors and take care of yourself.
If you have spent a sufficient amount of time indoors and have hydrated appropriately and still don’t feel much better, call your doctor or head to the clinic or hospital.