If you can’t stand the heat… it’s probably too hot. You might think it’s best to just tough out extreme temperatures, but you put yourself at risk of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Here’s how to stay safe during a summer heatwave.
1. Drink Lots of Water–and Skip the Alcohol and Caffeine
Sweat is how your body cools itself off, so in extreme heat you’ll lose a lot of fluids. The best way to hydrate is with plain old water.
Keep an insulated, refillable bottle of cool water with you at all times during the summer so that you don’t accidentally become dehydrated. Take regular sips even if you don’t think that you’re thirsty–by the time your mouth goes dry, your body is already desperate for water.
Avoid sugary drinks like soda and sweet tea, as well as anything containing alcohol or caffeine on hot days. They’re both diuretics that’ll make you lose fluids even faster.
2. Understand Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both serious conditions that can strike anyone, but especially little kids, the elderly, and people with chronic conditions.
Heat exhaustion can come on quickly if your body is overheated and dehydrated. You might feel as though you’ve broken out in a cold sweat. You may also become sick to your stomach, feel faint, develop a sudden headache, or experience muscle cramps.
If you or someone in your care experiences these symptoms, immediately move into the shade or in an air-conditioned building. Drink cool water and put wet cloths on your neck and forehead.
The next stage beyond heat exhaustion is heat stroke. At that point, your body temperature has skyrocketed to over 103 degrees. In extreme cases, a person with heat stroke will begin convulsing or black out completely.
If this happens, you need to cool the person down immediately and call 911. If possible, put them in a cold bath or shower; otherwise, cover them in towels soaked in cold water.
3. Dress for the Weather
Many people think that the best way to stay cool in hot weather is to wear as little clothing as possible. But shorts and tank tops offer little protection for your skin against damaging UV radiation. In addition, tight clothing traps sweat against the skin, preventing your body from cooling off naturally.
There’s a reason that desert cultures typically wear long, loose clothing in light colors. You need to cover your skin while still wearing fabric that lets your body breathe. Linen and lightweight cotton weave are your best choices. Light colors reflect sunlight instead of absorbing it, helping to keep you cool.