Get ready, summer is here and unless you live underground, you know that summer days in our region can range from sunny and pleasant to beastly hot. Throw in the ever-present humidity, and you’ve got conditions that can cause not only discomfort, but health risks—including dehydration and heat stroke—that could potentially land you in the hospital.
WalkArlington wants to make sure your summer walks are as safe and comfortable as possible. We’ve teamed up with goDCgo and created this Safe Walking Tips: Summer Edition to provide safety tips for walking in our area’s hot and humid weather.
Check Air Quality
Be sure to check the air quality index at CleanAirPartners.net. The combination of heat and humidity often causes increased ozone pollution at ground level, resulting in respiratory and other health problems, especially for children, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses.
Wear Proper Clothing
Think light colors and breathable fabrics. Wicking is a good choice for longer walks, as it takes moisture away from the body. Wear a hat to provide your own shade, and avoid cotton socks, which can get damp from perspiration and cause blisters. Choose shoes with breathable mesh uppers.
Use Cooling Products
A variety of products are available to keep you cool for hours at a time. Neck coolers are especially popular since the neck area plays an important role in cooling the rest of the body. You can purchase one, or find directions online by searching “homemade neck coolers.”
Know the Symptoms
Be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as confusion, anxiety, loss of consciousness, or a marked decrease in sweating. Stop and seek treatment if you begin to experience any of them.
Make sure you’re well-hydrated before walking by drinking 16 ounces of water. ALWAYS take water with you. As a general rule, drink 1 cup of water for every 1 mile (15-20 minutes) you walk, or whenever you feel thirsty. Walking more than an hour? Switch to a sports drink with electrolytes to maintain the proper balance of salt in your body.
Time your Walks
If your schedule allows, plan your walking trips for either early morning or evening to avoid both extreme heat and increased air pollution. Take frequent breaks in air-conditioned surroundings if you’re walking during the hottest part of the day.
Plan your Route
Be sure to get directions to your destination to prevent unnecessary time spent in the heat should you get lost. Try to plan a pedestrian-friendly route that includes some shade. Trees, shrubs and water all have a cooling effect, as opposed to areas that are predominantly asphalt or surrounded by heat-absorbing buildings.
WalkArlington, an initiative of Arlington County Commuter Services within the Department of Environmental Services, gets "more people walking more of the time" by promoting the health, environmental, community-building, and commuting benefits of walking.