Blog Post: Summer Safety


Today’s record temperatures can be dangerous to your health. But dive in with me and we’ll beat the heat.  We’ll deal today only with some serious summer threats—dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

Being outside, in the heat without taking certain precautions can lead to serious trouble. But follow some simple rules, and there’s no need to worry.

What is “serious trouble?”

Well … death. Historically, heat has killed more people than natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes.

It doesn’t even have to be sunny, just super hot.  And although dying is rare, it happens. The sun’s ultraviolet rays—the ones that heat us up—travel through clouds, through non-protective clothing, and even through your skin. So you’re heating up from both the inside and outside, without knowing when is too much.

Then how do I know before it’s too much?

You know about dehydration, when we lose more water than we take in? Well, we naturally lose water every night and day, by sweating, breathing, and eliminating waste. If you don’t replace that water, it’s danger—dehydration.

The first obvious sign of dehydration is thirst. It’s your body’s cry for help, a signal that you’re already dehydrated.  A simple rule to prevent dehydration is to drink water throughout your day.

I recommend drinking one ounce for every two pounds you weight. At 160 pounds, for example, that’s 80 ounces of water a day.  That may sound like a lot, but it’s just ten 8 oz glasses throughout the day – roughly one glass per hour, during your waking hours.

My next rule?  First thing in the AM, 22 ounces of water. That’s because while you slept, you sweated and breathed away a lot of it. An early start refills your tank.

And no, most beverages other than water don’t count. Water rules.

Do I just have to worry about the sun?

Unfortunately, no. The summer brings with it a lot of dangers, in part because you’re up and out of your house more often. Pay attention to avoid:

  • Food poisoning: Picnics and barbeques mean food outdoors, in the heat, for hours. Is the food being kept out of the danger zone? Lots of dangerous bacteria grow between 40 °F and 140 °F. The maximum safe period to leave food at that temperature is two hours. Also, I’ll explain more later, but you can’t just worry about undercooked meat or spoiling mayonnaise. Because of the way our food system works, raw fruits and vegetables can also be a source of food danger.
  • Heavy equipment + alchohol: You may like sitting back with a beer or two or sharing a pitcher of sangria with friends. Alcohol is bad for your health, but, for some of us, it makes living more pleasant. That’s a choice you make. The choice you shouldn’t make is to operate the grill, the outdoor fryer, or the lawn mower while you’re drinking. The same way you wouldn’t drive your car while your drunk, you shouldn’t use dangerous machinery either.
  • Sunshine: We spend so many more hours outdoors in summer. It’s pleasant outside even late, at least if we’re near a pool! But hours tanning lead to sun burns, and sun burns lead to melanoma. Please practice sun safety and cover up.

Last Updated: September 2, 2020
Originally Published: September 1, 2014