It's summer and the heat is on. You'll likely be outside more than usual, hopefully having a good time.
Although getting outdoors and exercising is great for your health, it can also be dangerous, if too hot, and you are not prepared. Make sure warm weather enjoyment doesn't turn into dehydration, sunburn, heat exhaustion or worse.
Before you begin any sustained outdoor activities it is important to know the heat index. The heat index is a combination of the temperature and humidity to reflect the actual heat effect on us. It is more telling than just the temperature. It is helpful to use this link
to determine the heat index for the day before you start any outdoor activities. Just type in the zip code in the upper left corner to find the heat index for any area you wish.
Here are a few summer health tips as a timely reminder to keep you safe and healthy while working, playing or vacationing in a hot climate.
- DRINK PLENTY OF WATER & ELECTROLYTE (SALT)REPLENISHING FLUIDS WHEN THEY ARE INDICATED
Next to air, water is the most essential element for our existence. Water is much of what we are, as the average human body is 60-70% water. If you wait to drink until you are thirsty, you are already 1-3% dehydrated. So drink before you get thirsty, especially in warmer climates. Thirst mechanisms are not totally reliable and are particularly impaired in the elderly. Research suggests that at best 70-80% of us walk around in a state of mild dehydration. Imagine how much more at risk we are when out in the hot weather. Under ordinary circumstances, the average adult loses 10 cups of water daily by breathing, sweating, and eliminating. This is magnified when there is excess heat, sweating, and activity.
Even when swimming you need to drink plenty of fluids. Just because you are in water does not mean your body isn’t losing fluids that need to be replenished.
I am amazed to hear from my patients how many people do not like water! These people need to be especially careful to drink enough. Since they tend to avoid water, it works best for them to put a 24 hour supply in a glass container, then take water from that supply and make sure all of it is gone in each 24 hours. Counting glasses can be tedious and inaccurate. If you are minimally active, the ideal number of ounces to drink in a 24 hour period is your weight divided by 2.
BUT HOW MUCH WATER DO YOU NEED TO DRINK?
If you are active, your water needs increase. You can calculate your daily water needs, cross referenced with your activity level at this link
. You will see that the more exercise you do, the greater is the need for water. The difference can be dramatic. A 158 pound person's daily need for water would increase from 79 oz when sedentary to 125 oz with daily aerobics. Many do not adjust water intake to activity level. The best way to make sure you keep hydrated is to always have a glass or bottle of water with you to remind you to keep drinking. Be sure you do not leave your bottled water in hot cars or other warm places as the chemicals in the plastic are more apt to leach in to the water when heated.
WHEN DO YOU NEED ELECTROLYTE REPLENISHING FLUIDS?
With high intensity exercise or work for more than 3-5 hours , or with prolonged excessive sweating you may also need to add the electrolytes, sodium, potassium, magnesium
, and calcium
such as in a electrolyte drink or electrolyte powders added to a drink. Smart water, Powerade Zero, Ultima Replenisher have electrolytes, but no sugar or calories. If you drink an electrolyte drink too fast it could be nauseating. Vegetable juices also contain electrolytes. Emergen C powder
contains electrolytes and can be added to any drink. There are numerous electrolyte sports drinks on the market. Unless you are an endurance athlete or are doing hard sustained physical labor in the heat, you will usually not need anything beyond water, fruit, vegetables, and vegetable juice. Researchers also found that skim milk worked as well as an electrolyte drink in tests they performed on exercising subjects.
Because decreased water impairs the optimal functioning of the body at the cellular level, dehydration worsens almost any pre-existing health condition, such as allergies, asthma, heart disease, strokes, infections, kidney stones. Dehydration also impairs mental and physical functioning. For every 1% of water weight we lose, our capacity to do work or exercise decreases 10%. Pretty dramatic!
Trying to get quench thirst with the wrong liquids can make matters worse. Alcohol, and caffeinated or carbonated drinks act as diuretics and can easily dehydrate, leaving you feeling tired and worn out. If it is hard to quit drinking these types of beverages all together, try to limit the amount you usually drink, switching from a large container every morning to a small container every other day. Also drink more water to try to compensate.
Other ways to stay cooler include wearing light, loose fitting clothing, a wet scarf around your neck, a wet hat, or even wet clothes when practical to do so. Portable hand held sprays are also available for cooling. Also taking a complete daily multivitamin mineral that includes B vitamins
along with antioxidants like vitamins C
will help fight stress of heat and decrease sunburn risk.
If engaging in high performance outdoor activities, certain nutrients have been researched to be helpful. The amino acid tyrosine
has an effect on nerve impulse transmission which may improve vigilance, performance, drive, motivation and lessen anxiety and stress response. The amino acid glutamine
, improved survival in research animals subjected to heat shock. Choline
may reduce fatigue and improve muscle performance.
Carbohydrates help extend duration of activity, especially when combined with protein. Small amounts of caffeine limits the deterioration of performance associated with fatigue.
Those who have higher risk of heat related illness include:
- Infants and children up to four years of age.
- People 65 years of age and older
- People who are overweight
- People who are ill
- Endurance athletes and hard physical laborers
- Those exercising at high altitude
Also at higher risk are those taking the following medications:
- Psychotropics, such as major tranquilizers or antidepressant medications.
- Medications for Parkinson’s disease, because they can inhibit perspiration
- Diuretic medications or "water pills" that affect fluid balance in the body.
The Symptoms of mild dehydration can be thirst, headaches, general fatigue, nausea, dark colored urine, constipation and bloating, dry skin and mucous membranes, and a flushed face. If you ever get a dull headache immediately start drinking water and you will usually find that the headache disappears.
The symptoms of moderate dehydration can be fatigue, dizziness, vertigo, light headedness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, drowsiness, impatience and irritability, headache, cold hands and feet, muscle cramping, fainting, and reduced urine output.
- REMEMBER EXTREME HEAT CAN BE DANGEROUS!
All outdoor activities in high heat are physically stressful and can lead to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. The difference between the two may mean life or death.
Heat exhaustion sets in when we become so dehydrated that our body cannot sweat enough to cool down causing the temperature to rise. The person's temperature may be elevated up to 104 F.
Heat exhaustion symptoms can cause pale cool, moist skin, profuse sweating, muscle cramps or pains, feeling faintness or dizziness, headache, weakness, thirst, and nausea. There may be a rapid pulse, and decrease in blood pressure.
Heat Stroke is a life-threatening condition which occurs when your body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. High environmental temperatures can bring it on, especially when combined with strenuous physical activity or other conditions that raise your body temperature. Whatever the cause, you'll need immediate medical attention to prevent brain damage, organ failure or death.
Heat Stroke Symptoms include unconsciousness, markedly abnormal mental status including dizziness, confusion, hallucinations, coma, flushed, hot, and dry skin (although it may be moist initially from previous sweating or from attempts to cool the person with water), slightly elevated blood pressure at first that falls later, and/ or hyperventilating. If you or someone around you have heatstroke, you need to go immediately to the emergency room to receive intravenous fluids.
- PROTECT YOUR SKIN & EYES FROM HARMFUL UV RAYS
Even if you don’t plan to spend too much time outdoors, apply the right sunscreen to exposed areas of your body, but cover as many areas as possible. Sunscreen can prevent painful sunburn, skin damage, development of moles, wrinkles, as well as skin cancer. A broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB harmful rays is the best choice.
Not all sunscreens are equal and some are even harmful.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) developed a rating scale based upon safety and effectiveness for all sunscreen products. To achieve a top rating the sunscreen had to contain the minerals zinc or titanium, which help reduce UVA exposures. The sunscreen should not contain oxybenzone or Vitamin A. Studies have suggested a possible link between using suntan lotions with oxybenzone and a subsequent higher risk of skin cancer. The EWG also recommends you avoid powder or spray sunscreens. Some people are allergic to most sunscreens, such as myself. I have found our Aloe Non-Chemical Sun blocker
to be very useful.
Here is the EWG top ranked list of sunscreens, all rated 1:
Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 30, Unscented,
Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 30, Unscented,
Sunscreen for the face & Body, SPF 30, Unscented
Sunblock Stick No Fragrance, SPF 30+
Sunscreen, SPF 30+
Purple Prairie Botanicals
Sun Stick, SPF 30 SunStuff, SPF 30
All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30
We recommend this link
to see how your favorite sunscreen measures up.
Avoid sun exposure during the most intense periods of the day. Avoid prolonged sun exposure between noon and three, or eleven and four if you're very sensitive to the sun to keep your skin covered.
When you are out and about cover up. A hat that shades your face and neck is a must-have. Wear clothing that covers you. White clothing, especially flowing cloth, will help to keep you cool; the tighter the knit, the more protection from the sun's rays will be provided.
If you spend time gardening, a long-sleeved shirt and gloves to protect your hands will keep you safe. Sitting in the shade is a great way to stay outside without having to worry about your skin, so don't feel like you can't enjoy the great outdoors, just be conscientious while doing so.
Don't forget to include sunglasses in your summer wardrobe. Select sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays and have a wraparound style that prevents sunlight from shining into your eyes. Adequate eye protection from the sun can help prevent the formation of cataracts.
- BE SURE TO SCHEDULE TIME TO REST AFTER ACTIVITY
We all know that sunshine & warm weather provide us with a wide range of activity choices. But we must be aware of our physical limitations to avoid letting overexertion sap our energy and impair our judgment.
If you need to be working in very hot temperatures, you should try to acclimate your body by only spending a few minutes a day in extreme heat for the first couple of weeks.
It is very important to schedule time to rest, relax and even take a nap if necessary.
- DON’T STOP EATING HEALTHFULLY
With vacations & summer picnics comes the temptation to pig out. Try not to. Excessive junk food, heavy fatty foods, spicy and starchy foods, & sweets fail to provide your body with the nutrients and water found in healthy food. Junk food eating can deplete your body of essential energy.
Summer brings with it a wide variety of fresh fruits & vegetables, so enjoy them freely.
Foods high in beta- carotene including carrots, spinach, apricots, peaches, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mangoes, papayas, oatmeal, and lots more can protect your skin against sun damage.
So make healthy eating a priority this summer by focusing on simple snacks that don't take much work such as:
- Fresh berries kept in the refrigerator to add to salads, yogurt and ice creams
- You can also freeze all sort of berries or grapes for a delicious cooling snack.
- Healthy extras, like lettuce and tomatoes, kept in your produce bin.
- Try homemade Popsicles by freezing 100 percent juice.
- Cut up raw vegetables to serve with low-fat dips or yogurt.
- Blended fruit smoothies with protein powder and ice are easy to make and only limited by your imagination.
- Nutritionally dense and delicious, almonds make a fabulous snack. A top source for vitamin E and magnesium, and a tasty way to get your daily fiber, they also protect against digestive cancers, and contain phosphorous, an essential building block for healthy bones and teeth, that is also helpful in the absorption of other vitamins, like B-complex vitamins. Almonds are also rich in healthy fat, protein, potassium, calcium, and iron.
- Walnuts and pecans, sunflower seed, pumpkin seeds are also healthy snacks. You can snack on nuts alone or by mixing with dried fruit, such as cranberries, or blueberries. You can also chop or sliver nuts add to many dishes, breads, cereals, and desserts.
- Green tea is a healthy refreshing drink which is mostly water. You sip on iced weak green tea all day, preferably sweetened with Stevia Powder or non sweetened.
Hopefully these tips can keep you safe and healthy throughout the summer.
MANY BLESSINGS, AND ENJOY!