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Published on July 13, 2020

How to Stay Cool in the Summer Heat During COVID-19

How to Stay Cool in the Summer Heat During COVID-19

This summer, it's important to protect ourselves from heat-related illnesses while we're staying safe from COVID-19. Chief physician executive Bruce Swords, MD, PhD, shares tips for staying cool this summer in this week's 2 Your Well-Being discussion with WFMY News 2.  

Wearing a mask is important. Are there some masks that are cooler than others?

“I'm sure there are some that feel more comfortable than others. I'm with everybody else, wearing a mask outside when it's 85 degrees and warmer outside is really uncomfortable. The breath is hot. It's hot outside. It's humid outside. Your breath is humid. It's uncomfortable - and it's still the right thing to do.” 

Do you have any tips on how to stay cool while outside social distancing and wearing a mask?

“This past week, I think it's almost impossible to stay cool outside in the heat of the day. I would be telling you this last year or the year before, is go out early - wake up early and go out early. It is nice and cool and somewhat refreshing early in the morning, but that's the time of day to go outside. If you're trying to stay cool outside at noon, you're not going to do that with or without a mask on.”

What are some tips for preventing heat-related illnesses?

“Good question for any summer, and the key to staying as cool as you can is to make sure you're hydrated, so drink plenty of water. Whether you're inside or outside, water has an evaporative - you can evaporate the water from your skin. It has some cooling effect. And it's important to stay hydrated because when you are outside, you are going to lose a lot of water quickly, and maintaining hydration while you're outside is important and being hydrated before you go outside is important."

What are the signs of heat-related illness?

“So some symptoms of heat related illness - one is, you're hot. Other signs and symptoms are really stopping sweating. So maybe it feels like you're getting better, but if you quit perspiring outside when it's this hot and humid, that's frequently a problem. Being exhausted, overly tired with minimal exertion is a concern. So all of those are symptoms that would suggest you need to get inside and get in quickly.

“When people get to the point where they really are having a measurable fever from being outside, 101 or higher, they can't cool off, they pass out, they lose consciousness - those are reasons to seek medical attention very quickly, because heat-related illnesses can be deadly.”

Can the high temperatures slow the spread of COVID-19?

“Well, we don't know, and I think that evidence would suggest that that's not the case, at least in our country. It's hot. It's humid. We have more cases in our country. We have more cases in many states, including North Carolina, and it's not just the cases, which you might be able to explain away by, ‘well, we're testing more.’ That's true, and it probably explains some of the increased cases, but we have more hospitalizations and the entire state of North Carolina continues to have more and more hospitalizations.”

If you’re social distancing by waiting in the car, is there something you can do to help stay cool?

“I think you need to be really concerned about sitting in a car for any period of time if you are waiting outside of any place of business, or outside of a physician's office or the hospital, waiting on a loved one, you need to make sure that you can go to a place that's cool. Get outside. Go under a tree, sit in the shade. Park in a parking deck. It would not be advisable to sit in a car in the sun for anybody, so don't do that. Do anything other than that. And again, after you take care of that immediate need, staying hydrated is important. Drink water. Cool water might feel more refreshing, but it probably isn't all that critical what the temperature of the water is. Just make sure you're hydrated.”

Is it OK to leave kids or pets in the car if you’re only leaving for a few minutes?

“Nothing is important enough to leave your kids in the car. I don't care what's in the store. Either take the kids with you, make sure they're masked up, or take the kids home and go back to the store. Do not leave your kids or pets in a car for any length of time, especially this time of year. Just don't do it.”

2 Your Well-Being

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