With temperatures soaring into the triple-digits throughout much of the South, it’s important to make sure you have the essentials before exploring national and state parks and other recreational area in the region.
Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Despite this fact, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year.
Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, infants and young children
and people 65 years of age or older are at greater risk than others.
Following are the top five heat hacks for staying safe during the summer months as recommended by the experts from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
It’s important to drink at least 16-32 ounces (two to four glasses) of cool water every hour in the heat to replenish your body and prevent dehydration. Failing to drink enough water can result in heat cramps, heat stroke, and in severe cases, even death.
Signs of dehydration include dizziness, fatigue, faintness, headaches, muscle cramps, and/or increased thirst.
More severe signs include diminished judgment, disorientation, pale and clammy skin, rapid or weak pulse, fast or shallow breathing, unconsciousness, red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating), and an extremely high body temperature (above 103°F).
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water or electrolyte-replacements.
Don’t forget your four-legged family members and make sure to bring enough drinking water for them. Never leave pets in a vehicle or the sun for extended periods.
Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing (long-sleeve shirts and pants), a hat (preferably with a wide brim and with sun protection), sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, sunglasses, walking/hiking shoes (leave the thongs for beach ware), and wet bandanas to keep you cool while in the sun.
Food helps keep up energy and replace salt lost from sweating.
Snacks such as jerky, granola, trail mix, tuna, and dried fruit are a fantastic way to nourish your body while on the trail.
Two brains are better than one. It’s beneficial to have someone with you in hot conditions so you can look after each other on the trail.
With high temperatures (and high humidity in the Southeast), heat-related illnesses are all too common and having a friend with you to help recognize the early symptoms can save you from getting disoriented and/or sick.
Study the map and have it with you. Average hikers move at 2 miles per hour, allow yourself plenty of time to avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Plan to hike in the cooler morning and evening hours.
Pace yourself. Rest often in cool or shaded areas to give your body has a chance to recover from the heat.
It is also a good idea to let someone know your plan before you hit the trails and what time you should be back. That way, if you become lost, people know where to look.
Parks are a great place to explore during the summer and there are numerous ranger-led hikes and other activities on a regular basis at most national and state parks.
Remember, safety is no accident.