Thursday, March 10, 2011

How To Stay Cool In The Summer Heat

It’s that time of year again when the weather begins to warm up as we start approaching Summer.  Before we know it, we’ll start seeing some triple digit temperatures. Dealing with excessive heat and high temperatures to most people means staying indoors, but for those of us that are outside then that means we must be extra careful to take care of ourselves. When you talk about high temperatures, many people feel as if they know exactly what to do when this time of year approaches. However hundreds of people die each year in the U.S. due to heatstroke or temperature related illnesses. In Fact, more people die each year due to temperature related illnesses than all other natural disasters combined including floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and even tornado's. Therefore it’s always good to remind others about the proper ways with coping with high temperatures. Also, keep in mind that it takes most people’s bodies about 2 weeks to properly acclimate themselves to hot weather so take it slow the first couple of days and let your body adapt properly. I have listed several tips below to help keep you cooler and help monitor your water intake too.

Clothing – you want to wear clothing that is breathable, loose fitting, and in lighter colors. Dark colors like blacks, blues, grays, etc… will all be considerably warmer when in direct sunlight than whites, tans, yellows, very light grays, ect…  that can actually help reflect some of the suns light and heat away from your body. Clothes that are loose fitting also help provide breathing room in between your skin and actually even help your body cool easier when sweating. Breathable clothes will ensure that some of the heat escapes from your body and allow as much airflow as possible to circulate. Also try to stick with wearing natural fibers such as cottons, linens, and silks instead of artificial fibers that can make temperatures more unbearable. One exception to artificial fibers however is Under Armour or the like, that are specifically designed for heat reduction. In the worst of climates, it may be necessary for you to try and cover all of your skin from sun exposure. This will actually help provide shade for your skin and decrease direct sunlight which can raise your body temperature. Just keep the coverings light, loose, and breathable.

Stick To The Shade – even though this sounds common sense, try to think about it in much more detail. If you’re planning a hiking trip in the middle of the day and have two trails in mind to choose from. Think about which one provides the most shade and indirect sunlight. Sometimes a longer trail heavy in shade is a better choice than a short trail in direct sunlight and can take a lot less out of you.

Water – Drink LOTS of Water! Water is the key component within your body and accounts for about 60% of your body weight. You need to drink water and pace yourself throughout the day. Don’t just drink when you become thirsty because you might already be showing some symptoms of the first stages of dehydration like feeling sluggish and tired.  The exact amount of water your body needs is different from person to person and depends on many variables including, age, weight, climate, activity level, ect… Most people are recommended to intake about 8 to 9 cups of water each day. However more active people need to account for their surroundings and increase their intake to match that of their total output or surpass it. This may mean increasing your intake to 12 to 13 cups per day to nearly doubling it. To better gauge yourself, you want to drink enough water to rarely become thirsty and to ensure your urine stays colorless or slightly yellow. You want to avoid having dark or murky urine because that is a good indication that your water intake is not sufficient and that your body may not have enough water to properly remove toxins from your vital organs or flush out your system.
Soak Yourself – A great way to stay cool on a hot day is to either soak your shirt, bandana, hat, or even shorts in cool water. The slightest breeze will feel significantly cooler especially in the shade. If you feel yourself sweating profusely, then this provides a great way to cool down and take a break. You can also run cold water over your wrists, ankles, behind your knees, elbows, and neck. These are all points among your body that your veins and arteries run closest to your skin and are easiest to cool off and help dissipate heat. Try running cool water over these points or loosely tying a wet bandana or other device around them to help relieve some heat buildup.

Avoid Caffeine And Alcohol – These only promote dehydration and can trick your body into not triggering your thirst receptors within your brain as well as stimulate the production of urine.

Breathe Out Of Your Nose Rather Than Your Mouth – this is a great trick that I’ve used for years now. When you’re outside, breathe out of your nose rather than your mouth to help your body better conserve its water supply. Breathing out of your mouth requires your body to provide more moisture to your throat, mouth, and nasal pathways as the action of breathing in and out removes the moisture from those areas. Breathing through your nose will dramatically decrease this moisture loss and helps keep you from getting dry mouth or cotton mouth in hot climates.

Exert Yourself Wisely – keep a steady pace hiking, biking, running, jogging, etc… but don’t over exert yourself. Try to divide up a hard task among the day so that you don’t wear yourself out all at once and try to focus the harder tasks toward the cooler times of day either earlier or later than the mid day high temperatures.

Avoid Eating Large Meals – instead, divide up what you would normally eat in three large meals into 6 smaller meals. This will take smaller amounts of water away from the rest of your body in order for your stomach to digest a meal. The larger the meal, the more water your body will require to help digest it.
Know The Symptoms Of Heatstroke And Heat Exhaustion – This can include one or a combination of the following: rapid and shallow breathing, dry tongue and lips, cotton mouth, rapid heartbeat and pulse, confusion and disorientation, dizziness, dilated pupils, headache, fatigue and weakness, upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, high or low blood pressure, muscle cramps, and even unconsciousness. These are things you need to watch out for yourself as well as others. If you realize that either yourself or someone else is starting to show symptoms, then get yourself/them to a cool and shady location, dissipate as much heat a possible, let yourself/them very slowly drink some cold water, and monitor your/their conditions. If the conditions worsen then you may need to treat yourself/them with an emergency ice bath in order to drop your core temperature or rush them to an emergency room as soon as possible. If you yourself are in trouble, then call for help and avoid driving yourself unless it is absolutely necessary. You could run the risk of blacking out while driving.

Drink A Sports Drink – although water can be your first priority, it’s also good to drink sports drinks such as Gatorade and Poweraid. These provide lots of electrolytes, carbohydrates, and sodium that are not found in water alone.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! I remember when I was homeless and I went to work I didn't really drink any fluids that day and I walked quite a ways and I had a lot of the symptoms that you described except I felt like vomiting. Then I couldn't eat because of the dehydration. I had to slowly drink water and eat small portions of food for a few days. Good Info. Ping Ya!