It may seem rather unusual to talk about injuries and weather in the same context, but extreme weather can pose significant risks for many kinds of injury. Currently, many parts of the United States are experiencing a major heat wave, with record-setting heat and heat indices over the next few weeks. As we have seen in the recent past, deaths are occurring from heat-related and possibly from participation in outside activities that increase the risk of heat-related illness.
During the month of August, many athletes train for the fall sports season, sometimes participating in two practices a day over the course of a few weeks. While training is necessary and important for athletes to build up their stamina and to improve their performance, health consequences can be deadly if proper precautions are not taken. Athletes who do not participate in organized sports events, but remain active outdoors also need to exercise caution and make decisions about what will keep them healthy. Even people who perform everyday outdoor activities are at risk and need to ensure that they are taking steps to prevent illness. In addition to athletes, those at risk for heat-related illness include the older adults and the very young.
When temperatures are extreme, outdoor exercise should take place during the cooler times of the day—in the early morning or late evening. Hydration is critical—drinking water at regular intervals will help to replace fluid lost through perspiration, and will also help to keep the body temperature cooler. Perspiring is one of the body’s natural cooling methods, but to provide this cooling; the body must be well hydrated. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
Hot weather also places children in cars at risk. Every year, approximately 40–50 children die because they are left in cars that become too hot while in the sun. Children should not be left alone in cars or other vehicles for many reasons, but hot weather poses a particular risk.
At the first signs of heat related illness, stop exercising and find a way to cool down. If possible, continue to drink fluids, preferably water or non-carbonated drinks. Do not drink alcohol. Find a cool place to rest. Know the signs of heat-related illness and follow the recommendations at:
Heat is not the only weather event that increases risk. We are now in the middle of hurricane season, which runs through November 30th. In addition, summer thunderstorms can pose similar risks. Lightning can strike a person or an object, high winds can knock down trees and electrical lines or blow objects through the air, and heavy rains can flood streets and underpasses. In addition to the precautions that you take to protect your property during these events, there are things that you can do to protect yourself and your family.
If you can hear thunder, you are close enough for lightning to strike. Stay indoors, and if you are outdoors, find shelter in a building or a vehicle if there is no building nearby. Do not seek safety under a tree. Do not walk or drive through water that is flooding an underpass or road, or a river or stream that is rising rapidly—you can get swept away with fast-moving currents. After a storm has passed, exercise caution during the clean-up to prevent injuries.
Wear protective clothing and be sure that you stay away from downed wires. If you need to use tools such as saws or chainsaws to cut downed trees, be sure that you are using the right sized tool for the job and that you know how to use it properly. Keep children away from the clean- up site. For more ideas about how to stay safe, go to
Finally, we encourage you to stay as active as possible and to enjoy the remaining summer weather and activities safely, despite the heat and storms. Choose safety!
*This blog post was originally published at CDC Injury Center: Director's View Blog*