Phoenix, Arizona, is well known for its dry desert climate and blistering summer temperatures that can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. While many residents cherish the year-round sunshine, it’s crucial to recognize the health risks associated with extreme heat, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. This article provides an in-depth look at these conditions, prevention strategies, and essential tips to protect yourself during Arizona’s hot summers.
Understanding Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke
Heat exhaustion is a condition that can occur after prolonged exposure to high temperatures, especially when combined with dehydration (CDC, 2017)1. Symptoms can include heavy sweating, rapid pulse, dizziness, fatigue, cool moist skin, muscle cramps, and nausea.
Heatstroke is a more severe form of heat illness and a medical emergency. It happens when the body can no longer regulate its temperature, causing it to rise dangerously high (CDC, 2017)1. Symptoms include a high body temperature (above 103°F), red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating), rapid, strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and losing consciousness.
Prevention is Key
Staying well-hydrated is one of the most effective strategies against heat-related illnesses (Armstrong et al., 2018)2. In Phoenix’s arid climate, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Adults should aim to drink at least 2-3 liters of water per day, while children require 1-2 liters. Increase these amounts if you’re engaging in physical activity or during particularly hot days.
Limit Outdoor Activity
Avoid strenuous activities outside during the peak heat of the day, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If outdoor activity is necessary, try to schedule it for the cooler parts of the day and take frequent breaks to rest and hydrate.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Choose lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight. Wear a wide-brimmed hat for shade and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher (American Academy of Dermatology, 2019)3.
Use Air Conditioning
Try to spend the hottest parts of the day in air-conditioned spaces. If you don’t have air conditioning at home, consider visiting public places like shopping malls, libraries, or cooling centers.
Adapt to the Heat
Acclimatize to the high temperatures gradually. It can take several weeks for your body to adjust to the heat, especially if you are new to the area or if the weather changes suddenly (Bouchama & Knochel, 2002)4.
Recognizing and Responding to Heat-Related Illness
Recognizing the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke can help ensure that you get the necessary treatment quickly. If you or someone else is showing signs of heatstroke, such as a high body temperature, altered mental state or behavior, alteration in sweating, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, or a racing heart rate, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately (CDC, 2017)1.
While waiting for medical help, move the person into a cooler environment, remove unnecessary clothing, and cool them down by any means possible – for example, with a cool bath or shower, garden hose, sponge, or if the humidity is low, wrapping the person in a cool, wet sheet and fanning them vigorously.
If symptoms are more in line with heat exhaustion, get the person to a cooler place, have them drink water if fully conscious, and take a cool shower or use cold compresses.
While the Arizona sun is one of the many attractions for residents and visitors alike, it’s crucial to be aware of and take steps to prevent heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. With the right measures in place, you can safely enjoy all that Phoenix has to offer.
Our private practice is equipped to provide advice on preventing and treating heat-related illnesses, and if necessary, provide medical intervention. If you or your family are in need of healthcare services, feel free to schedule an appointment with us.