Florida has a famous and well-deserved reputation as The Sunshine State—our long, warm summers are the envy of residents in the North and Midwest. However, fun in the sun can have serious consequences if you’re not prepared. If you’re relocating, buying a second home, or just vacationing here in horse country, we’ve got some important health tips and info to help you and your family enjoy the sunshine safely.
Hydration and Suncare
The average high in Ocala from June til September is in the low 90s, and that’s not counting the heat index—the actual temperature your body experiences with the added humidity. This makes hydration very important, even if you’re not outside all day. Your body can lose as much as four liters of water a day; more if you spend time outside in excessive heat. To stave off dehydration and heat-related illness, drink water regularly throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty (when you’re thirsty, you’re already partially dehydrated). Be mindful of the sun as well. Here in Central Florida, the UV index during the summer is often extremely high, meaning it’s very easy to get a nasty, lobster-red sunburn. Be sure to always wear sunscreen when going outside (SPF 30 or higher), protect your eyes, and wear light-colored clothing to reflect the sun’s rays.
“Sun poisoning” is a popular term for a very severe sunburn. In addition to painful blistering and burning skin, it can also cause fever, chills, nausea, and dizziness. The best treatment is to get out of the sun immediately and take a cool bath or shower. Keep all affected areas out of the sun for the next several days, and diligently apply aloe gel or moisturizer to the burns. If severe blistering occurs, see a doctor.
This painful condition occurs when the body loses water and salt too rapidly, triggering muscle spasms in the calves, arms, and abdomen. It can also be an early warning sign of more serious heat-related illness. If you feel overheated and begin to experience cramps in your legs, arms, or abdomen, take a rest in a cool place, and drink an electrolyte-containing beverage like a sports drink. Foods rich in potassium like bananas and apples can also help. Gently massage the affected area for as long as necessary.
Signs and symptoms of this condition include moist, pale, ashen, and/or flushed skin; nausea, dizziness, headache, and weakness. The affected person should immediately move to a cooler environment with circulating air, and remove or loosen as much clothing as possible. Four ounces of sports drink or water should be given to the affected person every 15 minutes. If vomiting or loss of consciousness occurs, or the person’s condition does not improve, call 911 immediately.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and can be life-threatening. A person experiencing heat stroke may be very confused or disoriented, and have an extremely high body temperature. Their pulse will feel rapid and weak, and their breathing may be shallow. Vomiting can also occur. If any of these symptoms are present, call 911 immediately. In the meantime, the most essential element in treating heat stroke is getting the person’s body temperature down, fast. Submerge the person up to their neck in cold water, or douse them. You can also sponge them with icy towels if no water is available.
Your pets probably enjoy the sun just as much as you do, but they need help staying cool too! Make sure both indoor and outdoor pets have plenty of water that’s easily accessible. Keep them inside during the hottest part of the day, if possible. When walking dogs, keep them off of concrete and asphalt—if it burns your bare feet, it will burn their paw pads, too! Horses should be provided ample shade and water when pastured. If they need to be stalled for any reason, make sure the air circulation in the barn is satisfactory. If any of your animals seem to be ill or lethargic after spending time in the heat, get them to the vet ASAP.
With these tips in mind, enjoy the Central Florida sunshine! Stay hydrated, remember your sunscreen, take some time to chill in the shade, and you’ll be well on your way to having an amazing, stress-free summer.