Stay cool and away from heat stress

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Summer is a time for sun and frolics, but it’s also a time for caution.

Heat exhaustion can be extremely dangerous, and the clothing choices you make for yourself and your children can make a big difference.

What is heat stress?

Heat stress (also known heat exhaustion) is the result of overexposure to high temperatures in weather conditions, and is most often accompanied by dehydration. In its most extreme form, heat stress can lead to heat stroke in adults, which can be fatal.

What to look out for

Common heat stroke symptoms include:

-          Dark-coloured urine

-          Headaches or dizziness, fatigue and fainting

-          Stomach cramps and diarrhea.

Dressing to stay cool

The good news is that heat stress can be avoided, and doing so is pretty simple. The key is to avoid getting too hot, so stay out of the sun and in the air conditioning when possible, especially if the weather is extremely scorching. What you wear in the heat will affect your body's ability to regulate its temperature, so give some thought to the cooling and protective properties of the fabrics and garments you choose for yourself and your family.

Silk and cotton are recommended for hot days, and synthetic materials are best avoided. General practitioner and skin specialist Dr Jonathan Levy suggests wearing porous, light coloured and loose-fitting clothes. “Opt for clothes which allow air flow around your body, and choose fabrics which wick away sweat from the skin,” he says.

For the kids, bear in mind also that sweat and sunscreen can stain fabric, so stick to machine-washable items, or save those favourite clothes for when the weather cools down. A hat is an essential part of any summer outfit. Forming a barrier between your head and the sun, it prevents burning, helps to keep your head cool and reduces the risk of sunstroke and heat stress. Dr Levy advises choosing a wide-brimmed hat that shades your ears, face, neck and shoulders. “Wide brimmed hats are best, and always wear water and sweat-proof sunscreen when outside.” Cowboy hats look cool and give good coverage, or channel your inner Audrey Hepburn and go for something large and floppy while looking elegant all at once.

Managing heat exhaustion

In the event that you find yourself or your children showing signs of heat stress despite your precautionary actions, the quickest treatment you can administer would be to get out of the heat and find somewhere cool to rest fast. Drink plenty of water and remove any unnecessary or tight clothing to help your body cool straight away. If you can, take a cool shower, or use ice packs or cold wet towels to bring down your temperature. Heat stroke symptoms are similar to that of fever and should be treated as such. During summer months, always carry sunscreen just in case. Heat stress can happen before you know it so get yourself a funky hat collection, heatproof your summer wardrobe and stay safe today.

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