The heat is on! My backyard and my oven have something in common. Their temperature! With a heat index in triple figures, playing an outdoor sport such as golf is likely not the best idea for many of us wishing to get in some exercise or just to get out of the house. However, should you insist on heading out to tee it up and play a few holes, please take the proper precautions.

While doing any activity in this heat, you should be properly prepared to avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion, and stroke.

Sweating is the most significant way that your body cools itself to maintain a safe and stable temperature. In our overly humid climate sweat doesn't evaporate easily and our bodies don't cool efficiently. We sweat more and need to consume more fluids to help our body stay cool and perform at its best. It may sound a bit gross, but I've been told that you need to replace every drop of sweat with liquid to stay hydrated.

It's important that you drink before you're thirsty. You'll even play better when you're not constantly looking for the next water cooler. Sports drinks such as Gatorade and the like help to replenish your body with the fluids and electrolytes that your body loses while perspiring. These drinks are also loaded with carbohydrates to provide energy that your body needs.

Fruits are best for giving you a boost of long-lasting energy. Candy bars provide quick energy, but their effects diminish just as quickly. Bananas, apples or peaches are easy to carry and easy to eat. Bananas also help to prevent the buildup of cramp-causing lactic acid in the muscles, a frequent occurrence during exercise.

Your most important concern should be avoiding heat exhaustion or heat stroke. There are many ways to do that. Always wear shorts, and light colored shirts. It may sound crazy, but wearing a moisture-wicking undershirt will also help. These “performance” material undershirts help get perspiration away from your body where it can evaporate more quickly, assisting in the cooling process. If you feel too warm at the turn, stop by the clubhouse, grab a cold drink, soak up a bit of the air conditioning and give your body time to cool.

While hats are great for keeping the sun off of your head and face, they will make you warmer. Your body discharges most of its heat through your head. If your head is hot, so is the rest of your body. Therefore, if your head is cool, the rest of your body will be as well. I like to take my cap off when I'm riding along in the cart. The sun isn't beating down on me and the breeze created by the moving cart helps to cool me.

Some people like to take along an extra towel or two. They dampen these towels at every water cooler and lay them across the back of their necks or over their heads when not hitting a shot, or wipe their face and arms with them to keep cool. Special towels, designed just for this purpose, are easy to find these days and work extremely well and cost very little.

If you are taking medication, your body may need even more assistance to keep cool. Some medications interfere with sweating, putting you at a greater risk. Check with your doctor to see if your medication could be putting you at risk and what measures you should take to lesson your chances of heat-induced illness.

If you begin to feel the effects of extreme thirst, nausea, dizziness, headache, elevated temperature, if your skin looks pale, your pupils appear dilated or your muscles start to cramp, there is a good chance that you are suffering from heat exhaustion. The best thing to do is immediately get to a cool place and rest. Replenish your body by drinking large amounts of fluids and eating generously salted foods to help your body return to its normal balance.

Heat stroke is much more serious and can quickly become deadly. Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin with a grayish tint, dilated pupils and a body temperature that may rise to more than 104 degrees. Anyone suffering from heat stroke must be treated quickly. It's imperative that you bring down the victim's temperature as quickly as possible. Immerse the victim in a cool water or ice bath and call 911 immediately.

Remember to look out for one another, especially on these super hot days. This is also not the time to “tough it out” if you don't feel right. We all want to enjoy our round and play our best. If you're careful and follow a few of tips, you can make sure that your only strokes are those you put down on the scorecard.

James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at stammergolf@yahoo.com.

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