Well, it is definitely summertime! Summer usually brings the thought of outdoor parties and games, splashing and swimming in the pool, and outdoor festivals. All of these things sound like fun, but remember, summertime also means turning up the heat!
Temperatures have been soaring recently, making it very uncomfortable to do anything outdoors. Lawns are brown and prickly, parks and sidewalks are empty, children have all parked their bicycles and put away the sidewalk chalk in favor of the air conditioned house and video games, and the animals are laying low in an attempt to stay cool in their fur coats.
Summer can be a rough time of year, and it is very important that we take care of our bodies in the warm weather. Heat exhaustion can affect anyone, so let’s go over the some of the facts so we know what to watch for and how to treat this heat-related ailment.
What is heat exhaustion? Heat exhaustion is defined as physical exhaustion due to heat. Pretty self-explanatory.
How hot does it have to be to experience heat exhaustion? Heat exhaustion occurs when the body gets too hot, and it is usually caused by exercise or hot temperatures. The body cools itself by sweating, and then allowing the sweat to evaporate. There is no magic number on the thermometer to watch for, but activity in a hot environment can limit the body’s ability to cool itself.
What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion? Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: weakness; nausea; headache; lightheadedness; muscle cramps; and vomiting.
Who is at risk for heat exhaustion? Anyone can be at risk for heat exhaustion; however, there are certain factors that increase the risk:
- Infants and young children
- Certain medications
- Alcohol consumption
- Overweight or obese
How do we treat heat exhaustion? The first thing to do when experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion is to stop the activity and move to a cooler environment. Another important thing to do is rehydrate your body. Drink fluids slowly to avoid aggravating any symptoms of nausea.
It is important to rest and cool your body down as soon as heat exhaustion is suspected. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to a more serious heat-related illness: heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature regulating system fails, which results in confusion, lethargy, and even seizures.
What about the animals? Wild animals know how to take care of themselves, but domesticated animals depend on us to provide food, water and shelter. It is our responsibility to provide our pets with a safe environment free from the dangers of the heat.
- Do NOT leave your pet in the car ever, especially on hot days. A cracked window does little to keep your pet cool. Even on mild days, your car is typically 20 degrees warmer inside. On a hot day, the inside of your car can reach temperatures of 120 degrees in ten minutes, even with the windows cracked. It is literally an oven.
- Leaving a pet inside a locked car is animal abuse. Your pet could die. Anyone leaving a pet inside a car can (and should) be prosecuted for animal cruelty. Leave Fluffy at home.
- Provide clean water for your pets at all times. Animals rely on a source of water to cool their bodies; they are wearing a fur coat after all!
- Do NOT leave your animals chained up outside. When chained, your pet can only move within a certain area and has no way of seeking refuge from the elements.
What about Hot Yoga? Hot yoga has many fans. Temperatures in a hot yoga session typically reach 105 degrees. It is revered by those who practice it as a wonderful workout because of the enhanced stretching ability in the heat. To still enjoy the benefits of hot yoga while avoiding the risks of heat exhaustion, remember the following:
- Drink at least 16oz of water prior to beginning a hot yoga session.
- Have water available during your workout, and drink it often.
- Listen to your body, and stop the activity if experiencing any heat-related effects.
- Rehydrate your body by drinking 20-40oz of water after your hot yoga session.
Take care of your body! Listen to your body’s signals; educate yourself on how to prevent and how to treat heat-related problems; always drink plenty of water; and most importantly, get out there and enjoy some summertime fun!