Playing it cool in the Summer Heat

Its a fact that the farther we get into Summer the hotter it’s going to get. And while a bright sunny warm day is ideal for many of us, the fact is that those temperatures can continue to climb well into the afternoon. For many of you out west, you’ve already seen temperatures soaring well past 100 degrees. For fans and tailgaters who find themselves in the lot during the dog days there is an increased need to plan accordingly for the potentially high temperatures. Failing to do so could turn what should have been a fun day into a potentially deadly one.


This past weekend hundreds of fans at a Toby Keith benefit concert needed medical attention after being affected by the Oklahoma heat, and it was only in the 90’s.  And while I say that figure somewhat tongue in cheek, the reality is that many of us will experience temps like that throughout July and August.  Luckily there were no fatalities but it does highlight the inherent danger in outdoor activities in such heat.

The CDC has published a wealth of information on heat safety, from which I drew a lot of my inspiration and guidance for this post.  Each of the areas that I mention going forward are drawn directly from their advice, but tailored towards the tailgater.

The first element of “beating the heat” is to stay informed. Check the weather reports for the area you’ll be tailgating in to see what the forecast is. Look beyond the temperature alone, many other factors such as humidity and the UV index can add to the potential for danger.  In an era of smart phones and widespread Wi-Fi up to the second weather info is readily available.  The other component of being informed is being able to recognize potential problems before they escalate, but I’ll speak more about that later in the article.


Next would be to stay cool. How can you do that at a tailgate? Simply put, limit the amount of direct sun you get. Not only will it help keep you a little cooler, it will also help you avoid a nasty sunburn. Another thing you might consider is what you’re wearing. Lightweight clothing that is light in color is ideal as it will allow your skin to breath and minimize the heat retained from the sun. Something I’ve been known to do on a hot day is to splash some cold water on anything that’s exposed such as my arms and legs to help cool down.  It’s also important to remember that the pavement is going to radiate heat as well, so if you can find a spot in the grass that would be wise.  If you really can’t get cooled down you may want to start up the car and crank the AC until you’re comfortable again.

You also need to stay hydrated.  Unfortunately hydration is a whole other subject in itself,  what with the electrolyte balance and that sort of thing, but the simplest way to approach this is to drink more water, and less sugary, caffeinated, or alcoholic drinks. If at all possible drink water that is cold because it will help keep you cool. Be careful though as there is such a thing as too much water, and while it’s not that common you don’t want to mess with that condition either. Aim for 2 to 4 cups per hour.

Do you need to abstain from soda or booze the whole time? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but I will say from my own personal experience that it is a lot easier to stay out in front of the ill effects of heat symptoms than to try and recover later on. Keep in mind that if you’re going to an event that is exposed to the outside air you need to treat it just the same while you’re there which is all the more reason to play it safe while tailgating.


Quite arguably the most important piece of all this is to be able to recognize the warning signs of a heat related illness and whether or not you’re dealing with heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  As with pretty much everything dealing with your health, early detection is key to preventing more serious illness.  Chances are that many of us have felt some of these things before, but maybe just didn’t really know what it stemmed from.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion would include:

•Heavy sweating
•Cold, pale, and clammy skin
•Fast, weak pulse
•Nausea or vomiting

If you have some of these going on the appropriate response you should take such would be to:

•Move to a cooler location. This would be a good time to utilize the AC in the car.
•Lie down and loosen your clothing. Again the car would be ideal.
•Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible. If you need to sacrifice a t-shirt to do this, do it.
•Sip water. Stop drinking anything but.
•If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.

And lastly you should know what to do if someone shows the following signs which could be related to the very dangerous condition of Heat Stroke:
•High body temperature (above 103°F)*
•Hot, red, dry or moist skin
•Rapid and strong pulse
•Possible unconsciousness

And your response:
•Call 911 immediately — this is a medical emergency.
•Move the person to a cooler environment.
•Reduce the person’s body temperature with cool cloths or even a bath.
•Do NOT give fluids.

It’s important to mention that this article is not the definitive resource for staying safe in the heat, it is merely to put it on your radar if you’ve never considered it or misunderstood it. For example the above info is very broad and doesn’t take into consideration those individuals who are at greater risk such as children, the elderly, and those who have preexisting conditions that make them more susceptible to heat related illness.  The bottom line is if you think something is wrong play it safe and get medical attention sooner than later.

If you want to know more there are plenty of resources out there to learn more about staying safe in the heat. As I mentioned before a lot of the information I used in this article was gathered from the CDC, but I hardly scratched the surface of the resources available from them.  Your medical provider would likely be a good place to get more knowledge as well.