Here’s how you can beat the heat—and the complications that come with it
Water, water, water
Apr 7, 2017
Ever feel like every day is just the hottest day of the year, even if your AccuWeather tells you it’s only 32 degrees outside? You’re not necessarily wrong.
Since we live in an urban setting where parks and vegetation are becoming scarce and rare, cooling the air has been difficult with sparse greenery. And the prevalence of non-reflective and water-resistant construction materials means more materials absorb incident radiation, which, in effect, is released as heat. Hence, the atmospheric temperature may feel like an average of one to three degrees higher than what is recorded. Experts call this increase in temperature in urban areas the Urban Heat Island effect.
This phenomenon may take a toll on your body, and sweating—your body’s way to cool itself—may not be enough to cope. Here’s a quick guide to different heat-induced health problems and how you can beat them.
Let’s start off with the least alarming one, heat rash, also called prickly heat, is a skin irritation that is caused by excessive sweating, which can, in turn, block the skin’s sweat glands. It is more common among infants as their sweat glands are not yet fully developed.
Tip: During the hottest of days, avoid wearing tight clothing. Bring out those loose cotton shirts to let sweat evaporate freely and easily. Also, avoid using heavy creams or lotions as they may clog sweat ducts.
Everybody wants that beach-ready body for the summer, but being active during this hot summer season can lead to heat cramps. These involuntary spasms occur in the major muscles—thigh and leg (quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius), core (abdominal wall and back), and arm (biceps and triceps). Cramps may happen during or after an intense activity.
Tip: When cramps attack, find a cooler spot or some shade where you can rest. Massage or gently stretch the cramped muscle/s to ease the pain. Drink lots of water and sports drinks to replace the lost fluids.
Feeling lightheaded? Profusely sweating? You may have been under the sun for too long. Heat exhaustion is one of the milder heat illnesses, but it may lead to heat stroke if left untreated. Other complications are nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and muscle weakness.
Tip: If working outdoors or in a hot environment is unavoidable, make sure to hydrate and take regular breaks in cool areas to balance your body temperature throughout the day to prevent this life-threatening illness. Once heat exhaustion occurs, the best remedy is to apply cool, damp cloths to the face and body.
Heat stroke is the most alarming of the four. This can happen when heat exhaustion is disregarded and your body fails to regulate your temperature. But unlike the previous illness, you stop sweating when this occurs. Other symptoms are confusion, fainting, seizures, or even going into a coma.
Tip: This needs immediate medical attention, but quick fixes like standing in front of an electric fan or air conditioner may help ease symptoms.
This story was originally published in Northern Living, April 2016.