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Summer is in full swing and it’s hot outside! For some, the ideal summer day is spending time lounging at the pool, but for moms-to-be, the summer heat can sometimes be unbearable and even dangerous.
During my first pregnancy I was in the U.S. Army on active duty at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. As a pregnant soldier doing physical training in the heart of Texas, I can certainly relate to all the moms out there!
I focused on staying hydrated and was careful to know my physical limits when the temperatures soared. Dealing with the concerns of heat stroke was something I was quite familiar with because I grew up in Saudi Arabia.
From a very early age I was taught how to protect myself from the heat. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses because of the increase in weight during pregnancy and the increased surface area on the belly, which is more susceptible to sunburn.
During pregnancy, an increase in a mother’s core temperature can not only harm baby’s development, but can also lead to dehydration for the mother. Heat exhaustion is a very real concern for pregnant women. Sometimes the signs mimic pregnancy symptoms, especially fatigue, nausea and muscle cramps.
So, if you are out in the summer heat and start to feel these symptoms, it may be too hot for you to stay outside. If you become confused, are no longer sweating, feel very nauseated, begin contracting, or, after seeking the cool indoors and water, your temperature does not go down, seek medical attention immediately!
To protect yourself from a heat-related illness during the hot summer months, follow these tips:
Stay hydrated! Keep a bottle of water with you at all times and drink at least 3 to 4 liters of water a day. In soaring temperatures, you may need to increase the amount you drink. Water is best, but other liquids are fine to drink. Just be sure and avoid excess amounts of caffeine, sugar or artificially-sweetened beverages and, of course, avoid alcohol while pregnant. Juice, while natural, has a large amount of sugar and should only be consumed in moderation.
Stay cool! Limit your exposure to the heat, especially during the peak hours of the day. If you want to play with your kids outside or exercise, it’s best to do this in the early morning or later in the evening. If you must be out in the heat, find a shady area and stay cool by using a water spritzer with a fan or placing a wet rag on your skin. If you are near a pool, swimming can help cool your core temperature! If you begin to feel uncomfortable, go indoors to cool off.
Stay healthy! A healthy diet is key. Eating a diet full of fresh vegetables and appropriate servings of fruits is a cornerstone of healthy eating. These foods naturally have a high water content and lots of nutrients.
It’s all in what you wear! If you will be outside for a while, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. You should also wear a wide-brimmed hat that will provide some shade. Believe it or not, loose, light, long sleeves and a skirt actually prevent dehydration better than shorts and a T-shirt, by preventing unnoticeable evaporation from your skin.
Protect your skin! Make sure all exposed skin is covered in sunscreen. Look for labels that read “broad spectrum” with sun protection factor 30 (SPF 30) or higher. Broad spectrum indicates the sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply it every two hours when you’re outdoors. The average adult needs about 1 ounce of sunscreen – that’s roughly the size of a ping pong ball. Also, now that mosquito-borne viruses are more common, it’s important to use mosquito repellent when going outside. Be sure to apply sunscreen first, then repellent.
Of course, if you have concerns, call your health care provider. Stay cool and BEAT THE HEAT!