How to Stay Cool in Heat & Avoid Heat Stress
Did you know that the temperature change during a heat wave actually causes more stress to the body than the increased temperature? The human body is good at adapting, but the initial temperature places the biggest demands on the body. Even a three degree temperature change shocks the body. Learn how to stay cool in heat and regulate your body temperature to avoid hyperthermia during a heat wave or exercise on a warm day with these hot weather safety tips.
Regulating Body Temperature Naturally
When we are hot while exercising or during a heat wave, the blood vessels in the skin dilate to allow excess heat to leave via the skin surface. The fitter the athlete, the quicker the body can adapt to temperature changes, however the young and elderly are more prone to heat stress during heat waves and exercise because they are not as well adapted.
For some people, it can take up to a week to acclimatize to temperature changes, which isn’t much of a problem when you have a gradual spring or fall. But a heat wave can cause more trouble regulating body temperature. This is because the body needs time to adapt to sweating more and losing/replacing lost salts when drastically exposed to hotter temperatures. If you struggle with heat stress or have some unseasonably hot weather in the forecast, there are some things you can do to stay cool in the heat to help your body manage the change better.
Hot Weather Safety Tips
Protect yourself. Shield your eyes with UV sunglasses and guard your skin by covering up with sunblock and UV-protective clothing.
Know what weather’s coming. The hottest part of the day is not always at midday: check your local forecast to see when the high will be and when there will be the least cloud cover.
Keep cool. Use a fan, duck in someplace with AC or find a breeze to cool down. Air movement helps to wick sweat away, allowing your skin to cool faster so you have less trouble regulating your body temperature. Take a dip in a local lake, river or pool, run through the sprinkler (if you are allowed to have it running) or take a cold bath or shower (as long as you’re not in a drought).
Reduce heat stress while traveling. A long trip in a hot car can be even worse in a heat wave. Consider taking a cool shower before you leave home and again when you arrive at your destination. And aim to leave earlier than you normally would so you don’t have to rush and cause extra stress. Keep hydrated during travel and pack up to four times more fluid than normal. This is important in case your trip is delayed or your car overheats and you need to continue hydrating while you wait for assistance.
Snack on salty, cold foods. Fruits, salads, cold soups, cold meats, and cold drinks are all important to regulating body temperature. Plus, smaller meals eaten throughout the day put less demand on your digestive system than a large meal, allowing your body to divert blood to your skin to cool you down. Add more salt than normal to your foods because since you’ll need to replace what you lost sweating.
Drink filtered water with filtered ice cubes. This is especially important if you’re traveling abroad as ice cubes could be made from un-treated tap water instead of natural mineral water or even treated tap water. The quality of water is important as the last thing you need during a heat wave is a parasite that will mess up your digestive system and leave you dehydrated. Drink water steadily throughout the day rather in short, replenishing bursts and make sure to mix in electrolyte drinks as well.
Replenish electrolytes. Whether you’re working out or just hanging out outside, you’re going to lose more electrolytes during a heat wave. A 50/50 mix of fruit juice and water makes an ideal hydration drink. You can also choose an electrolyte-filled sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade. You don’t want to just drink plain water as doing so can flush out vital electrolytes the body needs to function. This can lead to water intoxication, which is deadly, especially if a lot of water is consumed in a short period of time.
Know when you’re dehydrated. Check the color of your urine to see if you are dehydrated. If urine is clear like water, you are likely to drinking just a bit too much; but if your urine is very dark, you are likely dehydrated. Aim for urine straw-colored as the best indicator that you’re correctly hydrated.
Signs of Hyperthermia or Heat Stress
Even with the above precautions and tips on how to keep cool in the heat, you may still find yourself or a companion susceptible to heat stress, exhaustion or heat stroke. For this reason, it’s important to know the symptoms of hyperthermia and how to reverse them.
- High body temperature (If it’s over 105, get the person to a hospital immediately, this is heat stroke!)
- Muscle Cramps.
- Elevated heart rate and red skin.
- Profuse sweating or the absence of sweating.
Rapid cooling is important for anyone suffering from heat stress of any kind. Ice packs or ice in water, ice packs laid directly on the body, air- or water-cooling blankets and IVs are often used to treat hyperthermia. If you are attempting to lower your own, or another person’s body temperature, get them in cold water immediately and start giving them electrolytes and water. Consult a doctor.