June 9, 2011

Keeping Cool in the Summer Heat-Stay Hydrated!!

It’s another scorcher in the city! At temperatures that may break records! All of this and summer is officially two weeks away! As temperatures soar, it is important to remember ways to safely tackle the heat. One of the easiest ways to beat the heat and stay healthy is to raise that glass of water, and keep raising them!

We have all heard the best advice is to keep ourselves hydrated. Did you know the best time to drink fluids is BEFORE you are thirsty? By the time you notice you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. I try to get myself on a schedule, drinking water as soon as I am up, before I go to bed, and consciously making sure I have water every hour and half. If you are planning on exercising, or being out in the sun, you need to drink more as those activities will put you at a serious risk of dehydration which can lead to other heat related illnesses including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What to drink? While a cold beer may sound like an ideal way to beat the heat, alcohol can actually speed up dehydration.   Avoid drinks with caffeine and alcohol, as they stimulate urine production and lead to an increase in the loss of fluids.  Water is the best liquid to drink. I’ll admit it has taken me years to actually like drinking water, so as boring as water may be, I figure out ways to dress it up and enjoy it! I will often add fruit, vegetables to my water and flavor it. My mix today is strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple and ginger. Mix together and refrigerate for a couple of hours. I try to make a mix every night before bed. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade are also good as they provide electrolytes that you lose with sweat.

How much fluid is needed? They say that adults need 17 to 20 ounces before beginning an activity, as well as 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during the activity. The hydration doesn’t stop when the activity is over either. Another 24 ounces of fluid is needed within 2 hours of the activity.

Most children spend a greater amount of time outdoors in the summer weather. Because children have a larger surface area in relation to body mass, they often gain heat faster than adults. Children, especially those 18 months or younger, are especially susceptible to heat related illness. A good rule of thumb is that children need 4 to 8 ounces before beginning an activity, 5 to 9 ounces every 20 minutes they are outside and 24 ounces after they have stopped their activity.

There is a fine line between how heat affects adults, and there is even a more profound way that it affects the elderly. Be a good neighbor—check on neighbors that are elderly or sick. Offer to do some errands for them. Make them some flavored water. Play it forward!

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are over 300 deaths due to heat related illnesses every year.  The sad fact is that most of these deaths are preventable, and could be prevented from knowing the realities and symptoms of heat related illnesses.  Symptoms of heat related illnesses include:

  • Dry lips and tongue.
  • Headache.
  • Weakness, dizziness, or extreme fatigue.
  • Concentrated urine that appears darker than normal.
  • Nausea.
  • Muscle cramps.

It’s important to remember that anytime a person who has been exposed to heat becomes disoriented or unconscious, immediate medical attention for that person must be sought.

Keep plenty of water available for all of our animal friends as well!

Stay safe and beat the heat!

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