Hot Enough For Ya? Summer Sun Survival Guide

by Deb Wills
ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief

Feature Article

This article appeared in the June 17, 2003, Issue #195 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Despite the cool wet spring much of the eastern part of the country has been experiencing, Florida has been as hot and dry as ever.

Speaking as someone who ended up in the hospital a couple years back with heat exhaustion, I know firsthand how serious this can be. That's why every year I like to share tips for keeping your cool in the heat of the Florida sunshine gleaned from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health-related websites, as well as those sent in by ALL EARS® readers.

Please keep in mind, though, that this article is not meant to take the place of any advice from your doctor or other health care professional. It's our hope this article will increase your awareness and help minimize your chances of getting overheated and spoiling your fun in the sun.

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LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
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I can not stress this enough: Listen to your body! As ALL EARS® subscriber Nikki Hendrix writes: "Do not push yourself. Your body is a perfect alarm and knows when to take a break. Listen to it. Keep in the shade and drink plenty of water."

What signs will your body give you if you're getting into trouble? Well, signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness or headache, a "sick stomach" feeling or vomiting, and faintness. Untreated, the much more serious heatstroke can come quickly on the heels of heat exhaustion.

If you experience the symptoms of heat exhaustion, or see a member of your group experiencing them, the best thing to do is to begin cooling efforts. Get to a cool or shaded area, give the person lots of fluids, and loosen their clothing, cooling them with cool compresses or ice if available. Call for immediate medical assistance if these efforts don't revive the person.

Once the signs of heat-related illness begin to show, you can progress from "not feeling so good" to "feeling really bad" very quickly. Listen to your body. Do not ignore the warning signs!

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MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS
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Be extra cautious in the sun/heat if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other medical conditions. Also be extra careful if you are taking any medications. For instance, certain medications (like some antibiotics, NSAIDS [such as ibuprofen and aspirin], and some oral contraceptives, may make you sunburn more easily, so be sure to protect yourself and stay out of the sun as much as possible.

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HYDRATE!
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Water is the key ingredient for keeping your cool. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, which prevents the body from releasing heat in an efficient manner. That's why you MUST hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! And don't think because you are young or in great health that this does not apply to you -- it does!

Remember to drink even when you are not thirsty. In fact, if you wait until you're thirsty, you've waited too long. Increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. When you tour WDW in the heat, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

Avoid caffeinated or carbonated beverages, as well as alcoholic drinks and those high in sugar -- these cause you to lose more body fluids. Sports drinks can supplement fluids in your body, but water should be your first choice. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on diuretics or water pills, ask the doctor how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Also, some folks find that drinking sports drinks (when they normally don't) can cause digestive problems. Again, listen to your body.

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OUT IN THE SUN
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Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (this also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses.

Use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" on their labels). You can get painful sunburn even on a cloudy day, so slather on the sunscreen every morning before you start out. Don't forget lips, ears, the back of your neck. ALL EARS® reader Kat notes, "Now you can buy sunscreen wipes that come in individually wrapped packets. They are easy to carry around the park -- they are quick to wipe on and there is no fear of a bottle spilling in your bag."

Wear lightweight clothing. If you have clothing that contains Coolmax or similar products wear that -- it's even better than cotton.

Limit strenuous exercise. And yes, that includes walking around the theme parks. Try to limit the outdoor attractions you visit to early and later in the day. During the heat of the day, visit the attractions that are inside and air conditioned! Subscriber Gay Bachmann suggests: Visit the dark, cool, indoor attractions that usually have no wait, like Hall of Presidents, Ellen's Energy Adventure, American Adventure.

Walking around in the heat and humidity can make ALL parts of your body sweat, and that includes your poor feet. When feet are wet, blisters can develop, so try to wear socks that are not 100 percent cotton. If you feel a hot spot developing, find a place in the shade to sit down. Take off your shoe and sock and inspect your feet. Put a bandage on the tender area, and let your feet dry. Dry feet are happy feet! If you get bad blisters, go to the First Aid Station (there's one located in each of the parks).

ALL EARS® subscriber Marilyn F. suggests: The hot humid weather at WDW can cut a day short when you begin to chafe from body parts rubbing together. I recently learned of a product called Bodyglide ($7 available on www.rei.com). It looks like a stick deodorant, but is actually a personal lubricant. It will prevent chafing & blisters. It is not greasy but it does eliminate the friction. It is a new 'must' take to the park item for me.

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KEEPING THE SMALL FRY
FROM FRYING
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Michelle writes: Take advantage of each park's Baby Care Center. These are a haven for both mom and baby. When we took our son down one year he refused to nurse because he was too hot -- this was in early April! When I finally found a Baby Care Center with its wonderful air-conditioned, dimly lit nursing rooms, he was much happier and nursed. It is important to keep a baby hydrated, too! Remember the old rule of thumb: What goes in, must come out. So if your kid isn't going to the bathroom (or wetting the diaper) then you know they haven't had enough to drink.

Alisa Starke shares: Most strollers are in a navy blue or some other dark color that hides spills and stains. This is functional for general use, but in Florida it just attracts the hot sun and turns a baby's sanctuary into a sauna. To keep babies cool, line the seating area with a big white terry cloth towel and safety pin it to the seat so it fits snugly. Drape a light-colored scarf over the navy blue/dark material carriage cover as well. The light color won't absorb as much heat. You'd be amazed how much it cuts down on the heat for the little ones and the towel soaks up sweat and can be washed the next day or replaced with a fresh clean towel.

Juli Vieke-Peach writes: I brought along a thin ice/gel pack intended for a 9x13 baking pan. I would freeze it, then wrap a towel around it and slide it in my son's umbrella stroller between the stroller back and his shirt. This kept him cool and wasn't awkward or too big to use.

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MORE READER TIPS:
IT WORKED FOR US!
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ALL EARS® readers sent in so many wonderful ideas for keeping cool and touring WDW in the summer! The most popular suggestions included:

Freezing water bottles; soaking bandannas in cold water or in ice, then wrapping them around your head or neck; cooling off in a shady area; and eating snacks in the air conditioning. Many others suggested using the water mister spray fans. To save a few dollars, plan ahead and buy them from a discount store for $5 to $7, rather than from Disney at $17.

SURFNCATHY says: Don't be afraid to get WET! Not only at the pools and water parks, but also those great "WET" attractions, the small theme park sprinklers and water misters, e.g., "Singing in the Rain" umbrella at the Studios, the water misters at Epcot, the splashing sprinklers at Epcot and Downtown Disney.

The Pauls write: When the days are extremely hot, I take a couple of wash clothes to the parks with us. I dampen them with cold water, put them in a Ziploc and fill another with ice. I keep them together in an insulated bag. Throughout the day I take them out to wipe my daughter's face and neck. This keeps her cool and clean. I keep adding fresh ice whenever needed throughout the day!

Tracey says: I purchased a collapsible travel umbrella. I made sure that I purchased one that was a light color -- black would not do! It folds to a compact 9 inches long, 2 inches wide and fits easily into any purse or backpack. As soon as I was in the heat I opened the umbrella and it worked wonders. You should have seen the people staring at me. I think I could have sold it for much more than I paid! It was great for walking around but also for waiting for parades. It's surprising how much it helped.

Rich Mellon says: The CamelBak hydration backpack is a backpack with a water bladder inside. Bikers use them when hitting the road or backwoods trails to carry cold refreshing water with them. They come in various sizes and shapes and some also have cargo compartments for storing other essential items (sunscreen, etc.). Just fill it with ice and water before heading to the park and you can sip on it all day long. Use it up and just refill it at the park. Extra benefit for the person carrying it, they get a nice cool sensation on their back.

"Jungle" Jim Sirks, a former Cast Member, sent in a few wise tips, born of experience:
-- Make a mental note of where water fountains are located. The water is always cold, and keeping hydrated (for free) is the number one way to stay cool (and avoid heat stroke).

-- On Main Street, U.S.A., or in Frontierland, walk through the stores, especially during parades. You'll find that they're all connected, air-conditioned, and not as crowded as the streets and sidewalks.

-- Make avid use of the steam trains. They're very relaxing, and the 12-15 mph breeze is quite refreshing.

-- Take time to relax on Tom Sawyer's Island to cool down many different ways. Stroll through a cave, get a lemonade and sit on Aunt Polly's porch, or, my favorite, climb to the top of the hill and soak your feet in the stream for a few minutes!

-- Totally avoid the 3 p.m. parade and the afternoon shows at Cinderella Castle unless you can sit in the shade. As a past Main Street Operations Host, I more than once had to help an overheated guest to First Aid.

A person after my own heart, Pat Schaub points out: The very best way to keep cool would be those Mickey ice cream bars. They sell them everywhere in the parks, so whenever you feel the heat, buy a Mickey bar, sit in the shade and do some people-watching. That would be the best way I can think of!

Finally, there was the tip that Maureen Mellor and several more of you sent in, which, if possible, may be the best one for beating the Florida heat: OK, I know this is totally cheating, but the absolutely BEST way to beat the heat is to avoid Orlando completely in June, July and August. Instead, go in early December -- great weather and holiday ambiance out the wazoo!!

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WEB RESOURCES
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I recommend you the following sites for more information and other great tips:

"Tips on Managing Heat and Heat-Related Illnesses" on the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/r2k0803.htm

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/heatillness.html

For Seniors: http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/934557316.html

http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/extremeheat/

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LEND US AN EAR
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Send us your tips for dealing with the Florida heat and any web links that are great resources! Write to allearsnet@yahoo.com


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.