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Tips on Keeping Cool and Staying Safe This Summer

Posted Jun. 22, 2010

With summer officially arriving this week, people look forward to spending more time outside enjoying the warmer weather. Dr. John Staley, assistant professor in Kent State University’s new College of Public Health, says taking the proper precautions can reduce the risk of heat-related problems this summer.

Older adults have a number of potential issues that can lead to a greater risk of heat issues. Seniors are less likely to maintain the balance of fluids to be properly hydrated, according to Staley. “Like cars, our bodies get less efficient as they get older,” Staley said. Infants, children and those with mental illnesses are also vulnerable to heat-related problems.

Staley offers these tips for a safe and healthy summer:

1. Use air conditioning if possible
The number one preventative factor is air conditioning. “Unfortunately, many seniors who have air conditioning in their homes are unable to afford the cost to run it,” Staley said. But even without air conditioning, maintaining good air flow in the home is important. “Cross ventilation can really help keep residences cooler,” Staley advised. “You might also want to cover windows in direct sunlight, use fans and open windows at night.”

2. Maintain proper hydration
Maintaining proper hydration is critical to staying safe in warmer temperatures. “All liquids are not created equal,” Staley said. “Water is by far the best, but fruit and vegetable juices are also good. It is best to avoid caffeine, alcohol and high-sugar drinks,” Staley warned. 

Sports drinks can be a good source of hydration, but they are not for everybody. “When you see the word ‘electrolytes,’ that means sodium,” Staley said. “It is important to be cautious if you have certain health issues such as high blood pressure, which requires the use of diuretics. In those cases, sodium intake may be restricted.”

3. Be Aware of Weather Conditions
Common sense is a key factor in avoiding weather-related problems this summer. “Be aware of local weather conditions, such as temperature and humidity, as well as the heat index,’ Staley added. The heat index combines temperature with relative humidity to determine a measurement of the perceived temperature or “real feel” temperature, according to Staley.

4. Dress Appropriately
Staley suggests light-colored clothing made of natural fabrics.

5. Avoid stressful outdoor work and exercise

6. Use Sunscreen
“Use a sunscreen with the appropriate SPF rating – at least 15 SPF for daily use,” Staley said. “Severe sunburn can cause your cooling system to get out of whack quickly.”

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Media Note:
Staley is available for radio, print and television interviews on or after June 23. To schedule an interview, contact him at 919-632-3096.

Media Contacts:
John Staley, jstaley1@kent.edu, 919-632-3096
Bob Burford, rburford@kent.edu, 330-672-8516