Midsummer heat and high humidity aren't just uncomfortable -- they're a combo that can cause serious illness and even death. Babies and seniors are at higher risk for heat-related illnesses because they don't regulate their core temperature well, experts warned. Others at high risk include folks with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and depression. That's because of their overall health status and medications they may take. But heat-related illness can strike anyone. It's important to know what to watch for: Heat cramps -- muscle spasms that most often occur in the stomach, hands, arms, legs or back -- are often the first sign of heat-related illness. If you develop heat cramps, sit down, drink fluids and move to a cool, preferably air-conditioned place indoors. Apply cold compresses or take a cool shower. If cramps are accompanied by nausea, dizziness, fainting, vomiting or headaches, you may have heat exhaustion. Get inside, sip water and rest. Use cold compresses or take a cool shower after symptoms subside. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and can be deadly. Symptoms include confusion, hot and dry skin, an inability to sweat and a body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If someone has these symptoms, call 911 and move the person to a cooler place. If the person is confused, don't offer water because they may not be able to swallow it properly. Emergency personnel will administer IV fluids when they arrive. The best way to avoid danger is the also the simplest one: Stay indoors on the hottest days. Move regular outdoor workouts indoors, either at home or at an air-conditioned gym. Or go for a walk at a shopping mall. If you must venture outdoors, try the following suggestions: Drink water or low-sugar sports drinks. Avoid alcohol, caffeine or sugary drinks, which can dehydrate. Wear loose, cool clothing and use a cool mist spray. Stay out of the sun during the hottest time of day (usually between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.). If you're going to be outside for a while, take along frozen plastic water bottles. Place them behind your neck, on your forehead or cheeks to cool down. Each year, there are about 700 heat-related deaths in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts warn that simple holiday fun can quickly turn deadly when alcohol is involved. The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offered these reminders about the dangers of alcohol overdose and urged everyone to drink responsibly or not at all. Binge or high-intensity drinking -- drinking too much too quickly -- can lead to significant impairment in motor coordination, decision-making, impulse control and other functions, according to the NIAAA. Continuing to drink despite clear signs of significant impairment can lead to an overdose. Signs of an alcohol overdose include mental confusion, difficulty remaining conscious, vomiting, seizure, slow heart rate, and slow or irregular breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute or 10 seconds or more between breaths). Other signs are clammy skin, extremely low body temperature that might include pale or bluish skin and dulled responses, such as no gag reflex. The gag reflex can prevent choking. An alcohol overdose happens when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain begin to shut down. These control basic life-support functions, including breathing, heart rate and temperature. This can lead to permanent brain damage or death, the NIAAA said. Binge drinking is defined as having four drinks over a two-hour period if you're a woman, or five drinks if you're a man. High-intensity drinking is two or more times that amount. Teenagers and young adults are at a particular risk because research shows they often engage in this type of drinking. Even small increases in blood alcohol content (BAC) can decrease motor coordination and cloud judgment, increasing the risk of injury from a fall, car crash or violence or from engaging in unprotected or unintended sex. BAC can continue to rise even when a person stops drinking or is unconscious as alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream. Never leave an unconscious person to "sleep it off," the NIAAA warned. If you suspect someone has an alcohol overdose, call 911 immediately. Do not wait for the person to have all the symptoms. Be aware that a person who has passed out can die. Do not leave an intoxicated person alone, as he or she is at risk of injury from falling or choking, including on his or her own vomit. Be aware that cold showers, hot coffee or walking do not reverse the effects of alcohol overdose and could actually make things worse. While waiting for medical help to arrive, be prepared to tell first responders as much as you can about what the person was drinking, whether he or she took drugs and any health information that you know about the person, including allergies, medications and existing health conditions. Keep the person on the ground in a sitting or partially upright position rather than in a chair. Help a person who is vomiting by having the person lean forward to prevent choking. If a person is unconscious or lying down, roll him or her onto one side with an ear toward the ground, also to prevent choking, according to the NIAAA. Risk varies and can be influenced by age, sensitivity/tolerance, gender, drinking speed, medications a person is taking or how much food has been eaten. Opioids, certain sleep and anti-anxiety medications, and even over-the-counter antihistamines can increase the risk of an overdose. Using alcohol with opioid pain relievers such as oxycodone and morphine or illicit opioids such as heroin is a very dangerous combination, the agency warned. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on alcohol and public health.
Sunshine and warm weather have many people thinking about new workout options. If you’re ready to kickstart your fitness routine—but want to do so safely—consider these three simple tips: Check in with your gym about its COVID-safe offerings Many Americans who have been avoiding public places this past year are now looking to expand their horizons, including going back to a gym. Growing numbers of gyms now offer outdoor workout spaces that include many of the weight training and aerobics equipment choices you previously enjoyed indoors—treadmills, stair climbers, weight machines, free weights—and even outdoor classes. Outdoors or indoors, many gyms continue to maintain at least six feet between each workout station, require masks within the space, and provide free hand sanitizer, clean equipment assurances and other COVID-safe protocols. Give your gym a call or visit the location to find out what specific COVID-safe guidelines are in place there, so you can determine whether you’re ready to resume your gym routine. Increase your outdoor exercise routine After being cooped up for months, getting outside can work wonders for your physical health and emotional well-being. Take yourself to a park to explore a new walking or hiking path. There are several apps that can locate hiking trails near you. Challenge a friend to a regular game of tennis, pickleball or bocce ball. Or dust off your bicycles and enjoy the freedom of feeling the wind in your faces. Establishing a fun exercise routine with a friend can motivate you to keep it up and help lift your spirits. Older adults reported increased feelings of isolation last year. Exercising with a friend can help you shake off the loneliness blues. Being outdoors offers the added benefit of providing you with a dose of vitamin D. Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and to enhance bone health and immune system function. Regularly spending time outdoors is the most natural way to get the recommended 10 to 30 minutes of sun exposure several times a week. Just don’t forget to put on sunscreen. Augment your workout with home exercise classes National guidelines recommend that you get at least 150 minutes per week of exercise. To make sure you’re meeting that, augment your workout routine with home exercise classes that you can view on your laptop, phone or other devices. For best results, mix things up. Incorporate cardio exercise classes with strength training videos that use resistance bands or free weights. If you want to improve balance or flexibility, try a yoga or tai chi class. Now can be your time to get back into a fitness routine—or start a new one. Find workout options that you love and that motivate you to stick with them. Then make the most of the season. As always, before you start any new exercise routine, talk to your doctor to discuss your goals and what types of exercise might be safest for you.
While most American adults have already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a lot of people still have questions. Everyone deserves to have access to factual information to make a decision about getting vaccinated. But many people don’t know where to go to get their questions answered. For most people who want more information, talking to their personal doctor is the best place to start. Your doctor or health team will know you and your medical situation better than anyone. They can help you make an informed decision that’s right for you. When talking with your doctor, there are a few key questions you may want to consider: Vaccine Questions:
- Why did your doctor choose to get vaccinated? More than 90 percent of doctors have decided to get vaccinated against COVID-19. You may want to hear more about why they chose to get vaccinated as a healthcare provider.
- Why should you get vaccinated? Your doctor can make a recommendation based on your unique medical situation. The vaccines provide substantial protection from serious illness and hospitalization.
- Are the vaccines safe? These vaccines are undergoing the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Clinical trials began over a year ago with more participants than most other vaccines. Your doctor can help determine safety based on your personal medical history.
- Do the vaccines impact fertility? This myth has been appearing online but there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems. Ask your doctor if you have concerns around fertility or pregnancy.
- Are the vaccines free? Yes, the vaccines are provided by the federal government at no cost to recipients.
- Can you get a vaccine from your primary care doctor? Your primary care doctor may have COVID-19 vaccines available in their office. If not, they can help direct you to the closest location where you can receive a vaccine.
- Develop an action plan: Use this time as an opportunity to develop a nutritionally balanced meal plan that focuses on real, whole foods that charge your metabolism and help you feel energized.
- You stay fuller longer and don’t have to fight with hunger and cravings
- You can eat delicious foods that you want to eat—you are in control
- There’s no diet isolation. You eat the same foods as your family and friends
- Don’t be afraid to rock out at your cookout: The truth is everyone enjoys a good backyard cookout. The key is to make sure that you’re enjoying the tastes of the season without having a detrimental effect on your healthy eating plan.
- Burn off pandemic pounds: It’s essential to take advantage of the warmer weather to exercise away those pandemic pounds that many people packed on over the past year.