Heat Wave: How to Stay Safe on a Torrid Day
No matter what the cause, the fact remains: heat records are being broken month after month. Last year was considered the hottest on record and this year promises to break this record, too. And when the heat wave strikes, it affects you in ways you don’t even think of. Heat waves are not just unpleasant, but dangerous, too. So it’s mandatory for you to take proper precautions when they strike.
The health effects of a heat wave
During high-temperature periods the body temperature increases and this heat needs to be dissipated. Your system does its best to maintain its temperature at 98.6°F (37°C) through dilating the capillaries (thin blood vessels) close to the body’s surface, and triggering sweating. If the body’s ability to cool itself down is impaired by age or the outside conditions, the effects of heat can affect the body in several ways:
- it can lead to heat stroke, heat exhaustion, severe dehydration, or even stroke (cerebrovascular accident)
- it can aggravate chronic pulmonary conditions, like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or bronchitis
- it can aggravate conditions of the heart and kidneys
- it can interfere with hypertension treatment
Children under the age of 4 and the elderly are the most affected by heat waves, but the overweight, those with endocrine disorders, neurological diseases, and those who work – or even work out – during a heat wave are also at risk.
How to avoid being affected by heat?
- Drink plenty of fluids. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, you should drink much more during a heat wave. Doctors recommend up to four glasses of cool (not cold!) fluids per hour, preferably water. Avoid alcoholic beverages, caffeinated sodas, and sugary drinks.
- Replenish the salt and the minerals lost through sweating. Sports drinks are a good choice if you work out.
- Wear loose clothes. Make sure they are lightweight and loose-fitting, so they allow your body to cool down. Avoid exposure to the sun, as sunburn can impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
- Don’t leave home without a hat. It’s mandatory to protect your head from direct sunlight during a heat wave.
- Stay cool. Wet your hands and face periodically. Use your stove and oven less. Head to supermarkets, malls, or other climate-controlled public places during the highest temperature periods of the day. Take frequent showers to cool down.
If you plan to spend the day outdoors, make sure to have plenty of fluids on hand, and enough shade to keep you safe. For the best results, choose a place where you can take a dip from time to time.