Health Watch -- Beating the Heat

Health Watch is a Public Service of the   Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

When the dog days of summer are upon us, don't let the heat wipe you out.

Summer weekends are made for fun - days at the lake or beach, outdoor sports or working in the yard. But the hot weather can be dangerous if you're not prepared.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say proper hydration is the most important way to prevent heat exhaustion. Drinking plenty of water before and during outdoor activities can go a long way toward preventing heat-related injuries. Dr. Craig Crandall, a UT Southwestern physician, says water really is the way to go. Sugary drinks, alcohol and beverages containing caffeine may even make matters worse. If you're active outdoors and drinking alcohol, you'll need even more water.

It's also wise to avoid outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day - generally during the afternoon. Watch the weather forecast, and stay indoors or take it easy outdoors if there's a heat advisory. If you've been spending the summer indoors by the air conditioner, don't try to suddenly go outside and exercise when it's hot. It takes time to become acclimated to the heat. Expose yourself gradually to hot conditions, an hour or two at a time over the course of a couple of weeks.

While you're active outdoors, be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. You may notice dizziness, nausea, weakness, a headache and pale skin. If you notice any of these symptoms, find a cool place right away to rest and drink plenty of water.