Top 10 Tips to Beat the Heat and Stay Safe

July 26, 2019

"More than 600 people die every year from heat-related complications, which can be avoided if we just know how to take action."

It’s hot out — really hot! So find an air-conditioned place to cool down and watch today’s very important live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, for her Top 10 Ways to Beat the Heat. This is part of an overall series Dr Nancy is doing this week on having a healthy summer. We’ll also discuss common heat-related illnesses, heat stroke and heat exhaustion: the difference between the two, symptoms to look for, and what to do about them!

Video Highlights

  • 02:37: Heat-Related Illnesses
  • 06:37: Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion
  • 10:57: Top 10 Tips to Beat the Heat
  • 11:21: Hydrate
  • 11:57: Wear sunscreen
  • 12:54: Replace electrolytes
  • 18:59: Eat fresh and light
  • 21:10: Become a weather expert
  • 21:52: Check in on loved ones
  • 26:15: Take it easy
  • 27:46: Acclimate
  • 28:51: Choose cool threads
  • 30:08: Stay indoors
  • 31:09: A note about fans
  • 33:05: Wrap-Up

Heat-Related Illnesses

Recently, we talked about the dangerous effects dehydration can have, as well as how much water you should be drinking and the foods you can be eating to make sure you don’t become dehydrated. 

Today, we’re going to talk a little further about heat-related illnesses, and specifically dive into the differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, because they are different and need to be addressed in different ways for optimum safety. 

More than 600 people die every year from heat-related complications, which can be avoided if we just know how to take action.

Heat-related illness, also called hyperthermia, is a condition resulting from exposure to extreme heat where the body becomes unable to properly cool itself; this results in a rapid rise in body temperature. The evaporation of sweat is the normal way to remove body heat, but when the humidity is high, sweat does not evaporate as quickly. This, in turn, prevents the body from releasing heat quickly. Prompt treatment of heat-related illnesses with aggressive fluid replacement and cooling of core body temperature is critical to reducing illness and preventing death. 

Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke both occur when the body overheats. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke, and while both can be dangerous, heat stroke has more severe repercussions than heat exhaustion. 

Signs indicating heat exhaustion include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • The skin is pale or clammy to the touch
  • You might even have goosebumps even though it’s hot outside
  • Headache 
  • Rapid pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 

Signs of heat stroke include:

  • Disorientation
  • Temperature of 103°F or higher
  • Zero presence of sweat on the skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Heart racing
  • Flushed
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness 

Because your body is reaching a temperature above 103°F during heat stroke, your organs, muscles, and the brain can actually start to shut down and become permanently damaged. That’s why calling 9-1-1 or seeking medical attention right away is absolutely vital if someone near you appears to be experiencing heat stroke. From there, do whatever you can to keep them cool or as you wait for medical attention to arrive (loosen any tight clothing, move them to a cooler place, and use a wet cloth or cold bath to lower body temperature. Do not give them water to drink).

If feel you are experiencing signs of heat exhaustion, get yourself to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned location. Apply cold compresses — especially to the groin or under the armpits, or mist the body with cold water. Taking a cool shower is also a good option. Drink water and loosen any clothing that might be restrictive or tight.   

In the event of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, or any heat-related illness, the bottom line is: if you start to feel sick in even the slightest way, you really want to get yourself to a cooler spot and cool your body temperature down. Step into the shade, go inside, or take a dip in the pool.

Now for our top 10 list of things you can do to beat the heat this summer and prevent a heat-related illness or becoming dehydrated. 

Top 10 Tips to Beat the Heat

Hydrate

If you watched our episode on dehydration, we talked about the fact that if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. It’s a good rule of thumb to drink a little more water than you normally would when it’s extremely hot outside. 

Wear sunscreen

Adequately protecting yourself against sunburn is an excellent way to prevent a heat-related illness. Sunburn can cause dehydration and force your body temperature to go up. Wearing an all-natural sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays can keep you safe if you’re going to be out in the sun. Make sure you reapply if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time. 

Replace lost electrolytes

When you sweat, you lose electrolytes in the form of vital minerals from the body, in addition to the salt that’s lost. It’s important to replenish the nutrients you’ve lost with something like coconut water, which is loaded with potassium, magnesium, and calcium — all things your body needs in addition to helping you stay hydratedAvoid sports drinks when possible, as they tend to have a lot of additives, sugar, corn-syrup, and even harmful food dyes and colorings. As much as possible, replenish your electrolytes with natural, whole-food sources. Here are some great sources to focus on, starting with the electrolyte they are high in.

Chloride

Chloride is needed to maintain fluid balance, blood volume, blood pressure, and body fluid pH levels. You can replenish chloride with whole food sources such as olives, seaweed, rye, lettuce, and celery.

Potassium

For portable, potassium-rich options, pick fresh or dried fruits like oranges, melons, raisins, or even prunes. Potassium supports cell and heart function, regulates blood pressure, prevents bone loss and kidney stones, and plays a vital role in muscle contraction. Other whole food sources rich in potassium include sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, peas, beans, beets, coconut water, and avocado.

Magnesium

Along with calcium, magnesium aids muscle contraction, nerve function, and enzyme activation. To replenish stores of the mineral in heat and after sweating, look to leafy green vegetables, almonds, almond butters, black beans, and lentils. 

Sodium

We’ve been trained to associate sodium with salt and the host of health issues that come with a diet that contains too much salt. However, when we are talking about staying healthy, especially in the heat, we actually need to make sure we replenish our sodium. Sodium is the electrolyte we lose in the highest concentration in the heat and when we sweat. Salt helps the body hold on to water, keeping you hydrated for a longer period of time. We typically get enough sodium in our diets, but when we are dealing with extreme heat or excess sweating, we always recommend adding an additional sprinkle of natural sea salt or pink Himalayan salt to your meals.  In addition, look to natural sources of sodium, like beets, carrots, cabbage, radishes, broccoli, and celery to replenish your sodium levels. 

Eat fresh and light 

You can try to avoid using the oven when the temperature tips toward the 90s...or even the 80s. This can generate heat within your house, not to mention make your air conditioning work overtime to try and keep the house cool. Opt for low-cook or no-cook meals like salads, wraps, or a cold soup like gazpacho. Veggie noodles like squash or zucchini are another great no cook option. Avoid eating anything too heavy, as heavy meals can take more time to digest, which can require more energy and generate more body heat as a result. Instead, try to eat cooling and hydrating foods like:

  • Watermelon
  • Oranges
  • Cantaloupe
  • Berries
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber 

Become a weather expert

Be sure to check the weather regularly on especially hot days. This way, you’ll be optimally prepared for how to dress and make plans on extra hot days. Stay up to date on extreme heat alerts in your area, as well as cool places to go in the event you’re stuck outside somewhere. And stay armed with an umbrella and water bottles if you go out!

Check in on loved ones

Children and the elderly are the most at risk of becoming dehydrated or suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Other at-risk populations include those who are overweight, people with heart disease, or people who have high blood pressure. People who take medicine for insomnia, depression, or for circulation issues should also be looked in on, as well as anyone you know has a tendency to workout extra hard. This can be especially true for kids who play sports and have pre-season training and events during the summer. If possible, check in on these individuals at least two times a day. Children, of course, will need to be more closely monitored. 

Take it easy

There are some people who believe that “If you’re not overdoing it, you’re not doing anything,” but this is not a good philosophy for a heat wave! Go easy on the exercise when it’s excessively hot outside. If you just can’t go a day or two without exercising, opt for something low-impact, or workout early in the morning or in the evening. Avoid working out in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest. This is usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you have access to a pool, maybe switch to water sports or water aerobics until the heat wave subsides. No matter what you do, the second you feel lightheaded or your heart is beating harder than normal, stop! This is literally a matter of life and death, so make smart decisions! 

Acclimate

If you’re someone who’s not used to working or exercising outside when it’s hot, then you’re more at risk for experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This is because your body is not acclimated to functioning in such extreme conditions. The best solution is to forego outdoor activities or to work outside for short bursts — about 15 minutes or so — until the body gets used to working or exercising in extreme heat, which usually takes about 3 weeks of slowly increasing the amount of time you spend in the heat. 

Choose cool threads, man

Wear loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics like lightweight cotton or linen. Moisture-wicking fabric can also help those of you who work outside stay cool and dry. These types of fabrics pull sweat away from the body instead of letting it remain on the skin where it can generate heat and hinder the body's ability to regulate itself. 

Stay in

Honestly, one of the best things you can do to prevent dehydration and heat-related illness is to stay indoors during times of extreme heat. Hang out in the air conditioning and maybe have a picnic inside or play board games. Don’t have air conditioning? Catch a movie or pay a visit to your local library. Make it a fun family event! This might be a good excuse to get in some quality family bonding time.

A Quick Note About Fans

Did you know that you are more likely to get a heat-related illness with a fan turned on than you are with it turned off? This is especially true if it’s really humid outside. Fans don’t get rid of humidity like air conditioning can. They move air over the skin and work to evaporate the sweat sitting there. If it’s an overly humid day or if it’s extremely hot inside, that sweat has nowhere to go and does not evaporate off the skin as quickly as it would in a cooler environment. If you’re putting a fan in your window that’s pulling air from outside, keep in mind that the air from that fan won’t cool you off if that air is equal to or higher than your body temperature. Only use a fan when the outdoor temperature is cooler than the indoor temperature. Opt for anywhere that’s air conditioned when it’s excessively hot outside. 

Wrap-Up

Today, we discussed the differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, both of which mean the body is overheating. Some of the signs of heat exhaustion to watch out for include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Clammy, cool skin

Some of the signs of heat stroke to be aware of are:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • No sweating
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or someone you know is suffering from heat exhaustion, which can quickly lead to heat stroke, move somewhere where it‘s cooler, like an air conditioned house or even under a shady tree. Apply cool compresses or take a cold shower. If someone is suffering from heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention and try and keep the person cool until help arrives. 

Some ways to ensure you don’t suffer from dehydration or a heat-related illness this summer, include:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Eat light, no-cook foods
  • Eat foods with a high-water content
  • Stay informed by checking the weather
  • Wear cool, loose-fitting clothes
  • Perform outdoor activities early in the morning or when the sun goes down — avoid being outside during times of extreme heat between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

If you found today’s post helpful, make sure to share it with your friends, and stay safe and cool out there folks!

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