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Your Healthy Family: Heat illness and sun exposure at SWFL beaches

Posted at 8:53 AM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 08:53:24-04

NAPLES, Fla. — NCH Healthcare System said it's common for patients to come into the Emergency Department with heat exhaustion or heat stroke this time of year.

If you are hitting the beach in the last weeks of summer, Dr. Shawn Patterson, the Chair of NCH's Emergency Department, said you need to take the proper precautions.

"The UV rays that you're getting from the sun are also reflecting off the water. So you're getting somewhat of a double dose," Dr. Patterson said.

"When you're in the water, are you less at risk for heat exhaustion just because you're surrounded by water? Or is it about equal?” Fox 4 Morning News Anchor Lisa Greenberg asked.

"No, it will cool you down. You do lose temperature through the water. If you're really hot, go splash in the water and get cooled down. But you really need to make sure that you're drinking as well. You have a lot of what are called insensible losses in Southwest Florida with humidity, which is when you breathe, you lose some water that you don't realize. When you sweat, you're not realizing how much you're losing," Dr. Patterson said.

He said to pack your cooler full of drinks; Not soda or alcohol, but water or something with electrolytes, like Gatorade. Dr. Patterson also said before you hit the beach, don't just check the temperature outside; also check the "feels like" temperature.

“It'll tell you what it feels like today. That will give you an idea of how hot it actually is when you combine the humidity with the temperature," he said.

You can click here to find the latest "feels like" temperature information from Fox 4.

Dr. Patterson also stressed the importance of sun protection.

"Make sure you have SPF 50 sunscreen," he said. "Use a tent, cover up, put on a hat."

He said you may think being under the water will help keep your skin safe from the sun, but the water only adds minimal protection from UV rays. He said even if you're wearing a hat or sleeves, the light reflecting off the water is hitting your face.

"So you are at a similar risk for sunburn as well," He said.

Dr. Patterson said even if it's an overcast day at the beach, you still need to have the same level of diligence with sunscreen.

"Even when it's cloudy outside," he said.

He said before you hit the beach, check the UV index.

"If that UV index is over two, you should have sunscreen on. Another way that you can look at it is if you see the sun and you look at your shadow, and that shadow is about as tall as you are or shorter, you need sunscreen. When your shadow gets to be about twice as tall as you are in length, then you're probably good to go without sunscreen," Dr. Patterson said.

You can click here to find the latest UV index information from Fox 4.