Beat the Heat and Stay Safe
We’re smack in the middle of July and it’s hot. Hot, hot, hot.
With the temperatures rising, we have to take extra care while we exercise, work, and play. When we work out, work outside, or even up our activity level when it’s hot, our bodies’ core temperature rises. To lower the heat, we sweat. The evaporation of sweat cools down that core temperature. Nevertheless, when it’s exceptionally hot outside, our bodies might not be able to manage its automatic cooling system. They need help.
Heat exhaustion can happen suddenly or over a period of time. And it doesn’t have to happen after a strenuous workout. It could even happen while playing in the park with our kids. Other detonators of heat exhaustion are dehydration, alcohol use (alcohol is a huge dehydrator), and wearing inappropriate clothing that doesn’t allow your body to sweat and breathe.
If not treated, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke, which can be potentially life-threatening. So, while we want to remain active during these summer months, it’s important to stay cool and stay safe.
Here are 3 tips to exercise, work, and play smart during the hot summer months.
- Know the signs. Heat exhaustion symptoms include
- Heavy sweating
- Cool, moist skin … even goosebumps … in the heat of the day
- Faintness, dizziness, and fatigue
- Low blood pressure, and dizziness when standing up
- Cramps and headaches
- Weak pulse
- Take action. Do not wait until it’s too late. As soon as you, or anybody you’re with, show signs of heat exhaustion, take action. Move to a cool area in the shade, lay the person down, and elevate the person’s leg above her heart. Drink water (not sugary drinks or alcohol, where they can get dehydrated more). Sponge the person down with cool water. And, when in doubt, get to a doctor.
- Prevent heat exhaustion. The ideal is to prevent heat exhaustion from happening at all! Some things are out of our control (like work schedule); however, exercise habits and hours are within our control.
- Exercise early morning, late evening. Avoid midday exercising during the hot summer months. If your only time to exercise is noon, wear a hat, sunscreen, and loose-fitting, appropriate clothing.
- Hydrate! Drink 24 ounces of water two hours before working out. Get another 8 right before working out. And drink 8 ounces every 20 minutes while working out. After working out, cool down with more water. This same drinking schedule goes for those who work construction, road crew and more. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
- Acclimate to the temperature. Don’t jump from the airconditioned office to 100-degree weather and sprint away. Take it easy until your body gets used to the extreme temperature changes.
- Know your body! Remember, “no pain, no gain” is a road straight to the doctor. Knowing your body, your limits, and knowing that these limits will be lowered during high temps, can save your life.
- The Devil Wears Wicking Fabrics: Forget fashion and get fabric-smart. If you work in the sun, wear SPF shirts and fabrics that wick away sweat. Do not wear cotton socks. Wear wool blends or synthetic fabrics that keep your socks from soaking up sweat (which not only messes with your internal temperature but can also cause uncomfortable blisters). Invest in a couple of good, quality wicking shirts.
- Never, never, never leave anyone in a parked car. In a parked car, temperatures can rise 20 degrees in ten minutes. That quick errand into the supermarket can be fatal.
We’ve got a good five to six weeks left of summer heat. So if you can’t afford a trip to the Antarctic, it’s a good time to find ways to adapt your exercise schedule or change habits to ensure your safety. Keep in mind children under four and seniors, over 65, are more at-risk for heat exhaustion. Moreover, if you take certain medications, you might be at risk, so it’s important to talk to your health care professional to find out which medications can heighten the risk.
Stay aware. Stay hydrated. Stay safe!