During the extreme heat of the mid-summer gauging when to take a break or stop working in the lawn or garden can be difficult. You may want to just finish up the task while your body may need a cooling down break. While taking in more water during extreme heat while working outdoors is important, it isn’t the only thing you want to do differently when the mercury rises.

Long periods outside during extreme heat like this week or intense exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses. There are three to remember heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion happens when your body loses water and salt through excessive sweating from play or work. People with certain health conditions affecting the heart, lung, or kidney are more prone to heat exhaustion. Watch your loved ones working outside to ensure they are resting periodically.

Resting every 45 minutes during normal summer heat allows the body to properly cool and helps prevent heat exhaustion. When the temperature and heat index spikes, resting every 15 minutes during the extreme heat is best. If resting every 15 minutes doesn’t seem possible for you then try getting the work done before 10am and after 6pm when the temperatures are cooler.

Shot of an old lady sitting on the grass on a sunny day, feeling faint, and a young woman assisting her

While heat cramps may sound like localized pain, heat cramps actually can cause pain throughout your entire body. The pain is actually spasms that occur in the large muscles in the body. When you sweat excessively during heavy exertion your body loses salt, potassium and magnesium and makes you at risk of heat cramps. This may appear more like exhaustion after a long time of excessive work or play.

The pain can creep up on you if you try to push yourself too far. The legs, arms and core are susceptible to cramping. Hydrating, resting and stretching can helped me relieve the pain caused by my heat cramps a few weeks back. I tackled a project to place sod down and worked two days straight. At the end of day two my body ached at my legs so bad that I had to lay down much of the day.

The worst one yet, heat stroke, is the most serious of the heat-related illnesses. Heat stroke happens when your body suffers from long, intense exposure to heat and loses its ability to cool itself. So, when you or your loved one stops sweating, watch out! The part of the brain that normally regulates body temperature malfunctions when you’re suffering from heat stroke. The malfunction decreases the body’s ability to sweat and, therefore, cool down.

The three heat-related illnesses all have a common cause, prolong exposure to heat. Always keep in mind the heat index while working outside, schedule work-rest cycles and keep an eye out for yourself and your loved ones to ensure they do not succumb to heat-related illness.