Summer is fast approaching and with it comes challenges to keep cool. Based on death certificates, around 9,000 Americans lost their lives to heat-related causes from 1979-2014 according to the CDC. This figure increased in 2006 when there were widespread heat waves in the US. Disorders such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heat cramps are vital concerns when temperatures rise. It is important, therefore, to cope with the hot weather, prevent dehydration, find your comfort levels and stay healthy.
- How the Body Regulates Temperatures
The body works to regulate internal temperature to avoid getting it too high or low that will result in malfunctioning. It controls temperatures through heat production (conversion of food to energy or exercise) and heat loss (sweating). When the environment is warm, the body needs to work more. It will try to cool itself by sweating. The sweat glands produce moisture cooling the skin. If the humidity is high in a hot climate, it is difficult to lose heat. Thus, heat disorders occur when there is an excess of heat production or too little heat loss.
- Avoid Strenuous Activities
Using common sense or being sensible is the best strategy to prevent heat disorders and problems. Do not exercise during the day when it is too warm. Either you do it very early in the morning or towards the evening to avoid the peak heat. Put off gardening until the late afternoon. However, if your work involves being outdoors, wear protective clothing and hats and make sure to stay hydrated.
- Wear Light, Loose-Fitting, Breathable Fabrics
Cotton is the best fabric to wear when the atmosphere is hot. It is comfortable and feels light on the skin. This is particularly important when heat is accompanied by humid conditions. Wearing breathable fabrics allow air and moisture to pass through easily.
- Maintain Hydration
Fluids are very important in hot weather conditions. You will sweat more if the environment is hot and are thus, losing fluids. They need to be replaced to regulate body temperature. Thirst occurs making you drink more fluids. However, the drinking of fluids must be continued even after the thirst is quenched. Stick to water and avoid alcoholic, caffeinated and sugary drinks that contribute to dehydration. Another great choice to help stay cool and hydrated is coconut water.
- Replenish Salts and Electrolytes
As perspiration occurs, salt and electrolytes are lost through sweating. When you drink more fluids, the remaining salts in the body are diluted. Without replacing lost salts and electrolytes, heat cramps will be experienced frequently among manual laborers or those who exert physical efforts. Cramps are characterized by painful contractions of the muscles of the hands, feet or arms. It is not only necessary to consume lots of fluids, but also salt. The sodium in salt is important in nerve and muscle functioning. Thus, salt needs to be replaced by eating foods and drinking beverages that contain healthy salt. Electrolytes are vital in regulating heartbeat or in muscle contraction. Drinking beverages with electrolytes is recommended to avoid an electrolyte disorder during hot weather whose symptoms include dehydration, fatigue, nausea and irregular heartbeat.
- Keep Surroundings Cool
It would be easy if everyone had an air-conditioner and no one leaves the home when it is hot outside. However, this is not the reality and if you do not have AC-powered rooms to escape to, there are several ways to keep your surroundings and yourself cool. One is to keep the cold as much inside the house as possible. Draw curtains in and lower shutters to prevent sunlight from heating up a room. Use fans to circulate air and open windows in the evening when it is slightly cooler. In cases of a heat wave, go to public places where there is air-conditioning.
- Lower Humidity and Save Energy
If you do have air cons, cool the room just an hour or two before going to bed to save energy. Use fans afterwards and avoid opening windows when humidity is high outside. Invest in a weather station device so you can track humidity and temperature levels. You will see that there is up to a 4% difference in humidity if you close your windows or let them open. This figure means a lot when it comes to comfort levels.
- Easy Hacks While on the Go
To keep yourself cool, splash yourself with water or freeze bottles of water so you have a fresh supply daily. Take tepid water showers constantly to cool the body down and carry a moist towel so that you can refresh yourself. In Japan, there are already some clothing and devices available on the market. These are mostly directed at keeping indoor workers safe when it is hot. Vests have integrated fans and there are also clothes that maintain temperatures cooled by water in an external tank.
Unfortunately, we might have to content ourselves with carrying battery-powered fans and mist sprayers as the public does not have access yet to these devices and clothing. In the meantime, staying and keeping your cool is already half the battle won against the summer heat.