Summer is time for fun in the sun, but whether you are relaxing at the beach or hiking in the mountains, it is important to take care so you don’t get overheated. Common heat-related troubles such as heat exhaustion, dehydration, cramps, or even heat stroke are easy to avoid with some simple strategies.
Heat-related illness tends to occur when the body’s ability to regulate its temperature becomes overwhelmed, typically because of prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The effects of heat-related illness can be as mild as dizziness or as serious as death, depending on age, temperature, length of exposure, and other factors.
Drink Your Water!
There is no reason to worry, though, if you adopt a few habits when you are out for work or pleasure during the summer. The best thing you can do is drink plenty of water. Water is vital for the body to function properly in general, but it is especially important when it comes to beating the heat. Sweating is the primary way your body cools itself, and you need to replace the water you lose as you sweat on the volleyball court or at a backyard barbecue.
The traditional wisdom of “eight glasses a day” is a good guide to your basic water requirements, but eight glasses will not be enough if you are active in high temperatures, inside or out. It is nigh impossible to drink too much water, so an easy way to make sure you get enough is to carry a water bottle with you and keep sipping throughout the day.
Sometimes plain water just is not appealing, and when it is hot outside, water in a water bottle can quickly become too warm to drink comfortably. There are a couple of good ways to keep your water cool and refreshing. If you know you will be out in the heat, plan ahead and freeze water in a water bottle; this will keep your water cool to drink longer.
Another quick and easy way to keep water refreshing in the heat is to add a little flavor with lemon or cucumber slices. If lemon or cucumber are not for you, try one of the powdered mixes now available. With some added flavor and/or ice, you are more likely to keep sipping – and more likely to stay hydrated. Sports drinks are another common option, which have the added benefit of replacing the electrolytes that are lost when you sweat.
Take a Break from the Sun
In addition to staying hydrated, taking breaks from the heat is also important. Find a spot in the shade to relax for a while, or duck inside to enjoy some air conditioning. This gives your body a chance to cool down and get back to normal. If shade or air conditioning are not an option, definitely take plenty of breaks from strenuous activity. Physical exertion will increase your body temperature on its own – think about how much you sweat during a work-out. So simply taking some time to sit down and relax during your time in the heat will help keep you cool.
Wearing the right clothes for the weather also goes a long way toward keeping you healthy. Choose light or synthetic fabrics and light colors. Light and synthetic fabrics will breathe better. What this means is that sweat will evaporate from your clothing faster, which helps keep you cool. Light colors reflect – rather than absorb – sunlight, which will help you avoid some of the heat that comes with it. Shoes can also make a big difference. Sometimes heavy, closed-toe shoes are required for your occupation, but when you have the option, choose light and open footwear. You might not sweat a lot from your feet, but open shoes will definitely help keep you feeling cooler.
By following these simple strategies, you can stay out in the summer heat longer and stay healthy. So drink water, take breaks, and wear light-colored, lightweight clothing. Now take care and beat the heat!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009, July 31). Heat stress in the elderly. CDC. Retrieved from http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/elderlyheat.asp
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, June 3). Water and nutrition. CDC. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, September 5). Water: How much should you drink every day? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256