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Summer is here and so is the heat. As a professional driver, knowing how to keep cool during the summer months is extremely important for your health and safety.

Although the majority of commercial vehicles today are equipped with air conditioning, any time spent outside the comforts of “AC” puts drivers at greater risk of heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, as well as fatigue. While it is difficult to predict just who will be affected by heat-related illnesses, some individuals are at greater risk, such as those who are overweight, small in stature, in poor physical condition, or eat poorly. Adults aged 65 and over, persons with chronic health problems and anyone taking medications that limit sweating are also more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

You can help keep cool while driving by taking these precautions:

·   Ensure you get sufficient rest. Adequate sleep not only helps you fight off fatigue, but also improves your body's ability to regulate temperature, keeping you cooler during the summer heat.

·         Maintain a healthy exercise regimen. The better shape you're in, the less likely you are to experience heat-related issues.

·         Dress in light-colored, breathable, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes so your skin can cool through evaporation. A hat is also a great tool to help keep cool and shield your eyes from the sun.

·         Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. The left side of your body—the one exposed to the sun while driving—is especially vulnerable to harmful UV rays.

·         Keep a close eye on weather forecasts, especially the heat index, which reflects how the temperature feels to the human body when factoring in humidity and air temperature.

·         Leave early in the day when temperatures are coolest, whenever possible. Access the latest traffic information to reduce travel time and limit delays.

·         Use polarized sunglasses with high UV protection to properly safeguard your eyes.

·         Eat small, light meals. Step up your intake of fruits and vegetables. Not only do they replenish nutrients, but fruits and vegetables contain high concentrations of water and help you keep cool. Avoid large amounts of sugar that can aggravate the effects of heat.

·         Stay hydrated. In addition to water, drink hydration beverages (i.e., Gatorade, Powerade) to keep cool and replenish critical electrolytes lost through sweating. Avoid caffeinated beverages or alcohol that actually deplete the body of fluids. Also, stay away from very cold drinks as they can cause stomach cramps.

·         Limit your time in the heat. Take frequent breaks in air conditioned places to allow your body to recharge and rest.

·         If your seat is vinyl or leather, cover it to minimize heat buildup. Also, cover the steering wheel with a towel or cloth whenever you leave the vehicle to prevent burning your hands when you reenter the vehicle.

·         Check with your doctor to see if heat affects any medical conditions you have or medications you are taking.

·         Be aware of the signs of heat-related illnesses and know the appropriate treatment measures. if you experience any symptoms, pull off the road to a safe location immediately, and take the steps necessary to help your body regulate its temperature before resuming your trip.

Importantly, be sure to check your vehicle’s air conditioning system regularly and have it serviced, if necessary. The last thing you want is to be driving in the summertime heat and discover that your AC is not working properly.

Driving in the summer heat can take a toll on your health. However, by adding these tips and techniques to your arsenal, you can help keep cool and make your trips comfortable and safe all season long.

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