Oh, brother, it’s hot out!

Tips for staying cool at the Ann Arbor Art Fairs – from a U-M emergency doctor & his artist brother

The Uren brothers beat the heat

Dr. Brad Uren & his brother Steve (holding a handmade wood shelf he will sell at his Art Fair booth) take their own advice.

If it’s the middle of July, and it’s over 90 degrees out, it must be time for the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

For Dr. Brad Uren, that means being ready to treat patients with heat-related complaints who turn up at the U-M Emergency Department. It’s just blocks away from the art-filled streets.

And for his brother Steve, it means keeping as cool as he can — while selling his exquisite wood art furniture from his Art Fair booth. It’s just blocks away from the U-M medical campus where his brother works – this year, booth #B224 at the State Street Area Art Fair.

The two brothers, who hail from the much cooler Upper Peninsula of Michigan, offer these tips to help Art Fair shoppers, volunteers & artists stay healthy during hot weather.

From U-M emergency physician Dr. Brad Uren:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Bring water. Buy water. Bring a bottle and refill it. Set a reminder on your smartphone to tell you to stop and drink. But whatever you do, keep drinking water the whole time. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. And stay away from alcohol, and from soda pop or other drinks with caffeine or lots of sugar.
  • EXCEPTION: If you take “water pills” (diuretics) for blood pressure, kidney disease or another condition, or your doctor has told you to limit fluids because you have a condition such as heart failure, be careful about water intake. Pay special attention to your doctor’s advice for hot weather, and don’t over-exert yourself.
  • Block that sun: Put sunscreen on exposed skin before you go, to let it take effect, and keep applying as you sweat it off. Wear a hat with a broad brim, and cover up as much as you can stand. Dr. Uren vividly remembers treating a bald-headed Art Fair patron who suffered extensive second-degree burns, with blisters, on his head and shoulders.
  • Don’t let heat exhaustion (or worse) sneak up on you: Patients who wind up in the emergency department during Art Fair often disregarded the early signs of heat-related issues, such as nausea, headache and dizziness, says Uren. “It can sneak up on you – you’re having a good time, walking around, heading for the next booth, and then you don’t feel so good.” Before they knew it, they had fainted or just couldn’t move another step. To prevent this, he recommends frequent rest breaks in the shade or an air-conditioned location – and more water.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek help: There are wheelchairs for use, and shuttles and trolleys to get around – take advantage of them. There are also plenty of First Aid stations and roving medical teams throughout the Art Fairs.
  • If you have any inkling you or a member of your party is having heat-related trouble, stop and talk with fair first aid staff. Or, call 911 from your cell phone and report where you are – you can just give the numbers on the nearest art fair booth, or a nearby street address if you know one.
  • Take special care with those who need it: “The ones we worry most about,” says Uren, “are the very old, the very young, and people with chronic conditions.” Babies and young kids, people with asthma and heart conditions, and people with learning difficulties and mental illness (who may not communicate their distress until it is too late) need special attention to avoid heat-related problems.
  • If you’re with someone who falls into one of these groups, especially if they can’t easily speak up about how they’re feeling, be vigilant — and don’t push yourselves.

He also recommends this page from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

From Art Fair exhibitor Steve Uren:

Dr. Uren’s woodworking brother is a veteran of many art fairs around the country. And at every one where the temperatures soar, he’s seen at least one fair-goer who needs medical attention.

His survival strategies can help Art Fair patrons – and perhaps also the 1,100-plus artists who sell their wares at the Ann Arbor fairs, and the countless volunteers and vendors also working there.

Some of his favorite tactics:

  • A cooler full of ice, ice water – and cold watermelon chunks. Whether you’re staying in one place, or walking around, bring supplies with you so they’re handy all the time.
  • Wet your hat: Steve dips it into the melted ice in his cooler, then puts it on for a blast of cool. You can achieve the same effect by pouring water onto your hat from a bottle. (Just don’t dip it into a public fountain…)
  • A battery-powered fan: For artists in their booths, this is vital. You can also buy personal portable ones to wear around your neck.
  • Take breaks in the shade or the AC – Most art fair artists add a rear awning to their booths to give them a shady spot to sit in. Take a tip from them and stop to rest in shady places from time to time. Steve also makes sure to book a hotel room near downtown so he’s not far from air-conditioned comfort.

Take it from two experienced brothers: With a little preparation, and a little attention to these tips, you can have a great Art Fair experience – even when it’s over 90 degrees out.


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For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.

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