Beat the Summer Heat

Old Man Taking a Dip in the Sea / Vieil homme ...

Summer is great for outdoor activities. It is also very hot. Heat stress happens more quickly as we age. You can beat the heat with these tips.

Predictably, one month after the summer solstice of June 21, the earth has warmed up. We experience that warmth as our summer heat waves. Similarly, one month after the winter solstice is the coldest period of the year. But let’s not talk about that now. Instead, let’s talk about handling this hot sunny weather.

As we age, we are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons. Our bodies do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature. We likely have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. And importantly we are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.

There are two heat-related illnesses that can occur. Heat stroke is the most serious of them. It occurs when our body becomes unable to control its temperature. Our body’s temperature rises rapidly. We lose our ability to sweat, and we can’t cool down. It can happen quickly with body temperatures rising to 41°C or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. The resulting heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

The other heat-related illness is heat exhaustion. Milder than heat stroke, it can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Its signs include: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness and weakness. I recently experienced this after spending too much time outdoors in Las Vegas. It is not fun.

Prevention is the best way to protect yourself from heat-related illness. Here are some important tips:

• Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages. My favorite is a low calorie electrolyte replacement beverage. It provides both potassium and sodium replacement without added sugar.
• Pace yourself and rest so that your body can adapt and recover.
• Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath to bring down your body temperature.
• Seek an air-conditioned environment. If you don’t have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned shopping mall to cool off.
• Wear lightweight clothing and a hat.
• Remain indoors between 3 and 5pm as this is the most intense heat of the day.
• Do not engage in strenuous activities to overheat your body.

By being mindful of these tips, we can all enjoy a wonderful summer.

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