It feels like a jungle out there, and not the concrete kind. The weather is sweltering this week and that means we have to protect ourselves from the heat. Heat exhaustion doesn’t just occur when someone has been out in the hot wilderness without water. It can occur right in our homes, on a job site or any place where you are exerting yourself outside for long periods of time. The people most at risk for developing heat exhaustion are those who exercise outdoors and the elderly.
Be on the alert for avoiding dehydration. Sweating is our main cooling mechanism and can cause the body to lose significant amounts of water. If you don’t replenish these losses you can become dehydrated. The first sign of dehydration is not the sensation of thirst surprisingly, but is actually fatigue and irritability. Thirst lags behind dehydration, so up to a point, we tend to forgo drinking when we need it most. Dehydration is a preventable condition- activities should be avoided during peak sunlight hours, consume plenty of fluids (at least 8 glasses a day!) and eat foods high in water like watermelon or cucumbers.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to dehydration- the body becomes overwhelmed by heat.
You may experience dizziness, muscle cramps, headache, nausea and dry mouth. If you are experiencing these symptoms cool the body down by taking a cool shower and going into an air conditioned room, lie down and rehydrate with a cool beverage.
Here are some tips for staying cool:
- Wear light clothing. If you have to go out in the sun, wear a hat and protect your eyes from harsh light with sunglasses.
- Stay indoors and out of the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day (10am-2pm). Exercise in the morning or evening.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drink about eight glasses of water a day. Sports drinks also can help replace the salt and minerals lost from sweating.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks. They are a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration.
- Take a cool shower if you don’t have easy access to air conditioning.
- Never leave anyone in a locked car during the hot weather, even for just a few minutes. Temperatures can rise quickly in the car, leaving those inside to suffer heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Both conditions are serious, and heat stroke can be fatal.