According to the National Weather Service, an official heat wave occurs when temperatures reach 90 plus degrees for three or more consecutive days. It is important to keep cool and hydrated during these times. However, I would argue that as long as there is a heat hazard, it is equally as important to stay on top of your health during the heat.
The National Integrated Heat Health Information System defines a heat hazard when:
- There is direct sunlight
- Low winds
- High temperatures
- High humidity
In my opinion, these hazards can be in effect during anytime of the year when temperatures are 85 degrees or higher.
During these times, we are more susceptible to a number of different heat-related illnesses:
- Heat Cramps: Are painful muscle cramps that occur after working or exercising in a hot environment. This happens as a result of there not being enough electrolytes (chemicals that help transport water and other needed fluids) in the body.
- Heat Exhaustion: Is a condition where the body is overheating due to exposure to high temperatures. Symptoms can include a weak and rapid pulse, low blood pressure, headache, dizziness, nausea and profuse sweating.
- Heat Stroke: When our body temperature rises, there are certain mechanisms our bodies do to help regulate our body temperature. A failure of these mechanisms to manage the body’s high temperature (ie. sweating) can lead to extreme body temperature exceeding 104 degrees. Symptoms can include dry skin, bright red color, labored breathing and a strong rapid pulse.
Individuals who work outside such as construction or sanitation workers and also older adults are at a higher risk of heat-related illnesses.
During times when the temperature is higher, here are 5 tips to stay cool and hydrated:
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat fruits and vegetables that have a high water content (ie. cucumber, melons, lettuce, pineapple)
- Drink sports and other drinks that have electrolytes (ie. gatorade, coconut water)
- Drink low-fat chocolate milk
- Eat dried fruit and nut mixes
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