BEAT THE HEAT!
When the sun scorches down on our backs, mangoes and watermelons flood the market and complaints about the weather become a pastime in most households, you know summer has arrived! With temperatures soaring we see a huge increase in cases of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat related illnesses like these happen when the body is not able to cool itself properly by just sweating and the rise in temperature is substantially higher than the rate of cooling. This can lead to brain damage, organ failure and other serious conditions.
Heat strokes can happen to athletes and active people involved in vigorous physical activity (exertional heat stroke) and elderly or sick people (non exertional heat stroke). Obesity, alcohol consumption, prescription drugs and dehydration are high risk factors. Whether you are a competitive athlete, student, working professional or senior citizen, it is extremely important to stay safe in the heat by making simple lifestyle changes.
Here are some tips from me to help you beat the heat:
Hydrate: For obvious reasons, this is the first tip we are going to address. It is common knowledge that hydration is key to getting through the summer. Dehydration is often seen in those who fail to consume fluids regularly. One simple rule to check if you are actually dehydrated, is by checking the colour of your urine. If it is dark brown in colour, you need to hydrate. Ideally, your urine colour should be pale/straw yellow. Other symptoms of dehydration include lethargy, dizziness, nausea, headaches and dry mouth. So how do we stay hydrated?
- Carry bottles of water wherever you go
- Try infused water or adding chia/sabja seeds to your water to make it interesting.
- Ensure you also make the most of local drinks like buttermilk, coconut water and lemon juice/nimbu paani
- Make sure each room in your house has a bottle of water
- If you are someone who easily forgets, set alarms to drink water or use an app! (yes there are apps to remind you to drink water!)
Make use of seasonal produce: Fruits and vegetables that are found in the summer tend to have a higher water content. This works in your favour by helping you get more fluids in! Snack on water rich fruits and vegetables like watermelon and cucumber through the day. Pumpkin, another summer vegetable can be used to make soups too! It is time to take full advantage of the seasonal produce in order to help us battle the summer heat. Do I hear someone say mango milkshake?
Cooking methods : During this period of intense heat, it is preferable to eat light meals. Deep fried food or food that are very energy dense and rich don’t resonate with this season! Traditionally, if you notice, summer foods tend to be more on the minimally fried and fresh side. Buttermilk/mor/chaas/thandaai, kosambari salad (traditional salad in the South made using cucumber and green gram dal), aam panna (traditional drink made from raw mango) amongst many others are extremely common in the summer. As you can see, they also ensure you get your fluids in and also make use of the seasonal produce available!
Ice-creams are also a summer delicacy! Why not try and make popsicles out of fresh fruit at home? That is also an excellent way to ensure kids enjoy the summer too!
Exercise: It is very important to stay physically active all year round, but a common excuse to stop exercising during the summer is the heat. So what can be done? Try and alter your exercise timings, especially if it involves being outdoors. For example, if you go for a run at around 9am and find it too hot, wake up around 6 and head out before the sun begins its job! Carry sufficient water with you during your workouts, be it indoors or outdoors. Further, make sure you wear light and sweat absorbent active wear that keeps you cool and also helps you workout with ease. Finish off with a long cold shower.
Protect yourself : Besides food and hydration, you also need to protect yourself from the blazing hot sun when you get out of the house! Excessive exposure to the sun can be harmful in the long run. If you are someone who is out for extended periods of time in the summer, do protect yourself by:
- Wearing sunscreen with a good SPF before you head outside
- Wearing caps/hats and sunglasses to protect your face
- Wear light weight and loose (preferably cotton) clothing
With good protection and ample hydration, the heat needn’t be feared at all. Do enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!
Worst case scenario
In case this article has reached you too late to prevent heat Illness or you come upon somebody with the following indications we have a few solutions for you because as you know #yodacares.
Symptoms and action points for heat exhaustion: Heat Illness can range from mild to serious and even fatal. Sometimes indicators often creep up on you so subtly that most people don’t even realise it.
Stage 1: Heat cramp, Heat Syncope (First Aid and observation)
Symptoms: Dizziness, Faintness, slight yawning, lethargy, muscle pain, stiff muscles.
Treatment: Can be treated by resting in a cool place, orally supplying water and electrolytes (ORS, Gatorade, Coconut water, etc)
Stage 2: Heat Exhaustion: (Should be accompanied to a medical institution)
Symptoms: Headache, vomiting, fatigue, sinking feeling, declined concentration/ judgement
Treatment: Body temperature management, orally supplying water and electrolytes (ORS, Gatorade, Coconut water, etc)
Stage 3: Heat Stroke: (call an ambulance, hospitalisation and inpatient care)
Symptoms: Seizures, convulsions, loss of consciousness
Treatment: after first aid (same as stage 1) Leave it to the paramedics and doctors
So there you are, Introduction- Prevention- Symptoms and treatment for heat illness. A little bit of owl wisdom goes a long way! Stay safe and happy sciencing!!
1) Research in occupational heat stress in India: Challenges and opportunities
– Krishnan Srinivasan, KN Maruthy, Vidhya Venugopal, Padmavathi Ramaswamy
2) Heat stroke
– Toru Hifumi, Yutaka Kondo, Keiki Shimizu and Yasufumi Miyake
3) Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety
– Office of Public Affairs, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4) Cooling Methods in Heat Stroke
– Flavio G. Gaudio, MD, MD Flavio G. Gaudio, Colin K. Grissom, MD
5) Pathophysiology of Heat Illness: Thermoregulation, risk factors, and indicators of aggravation
– Yasufumi MIYAKE