Nothing puts a damper on your mood quite like a heatwave. It is hard to stay focused and motivated when the sun is beating down on you and you are sweating over half of your body weight. Heatwaves in California are an especially unwieldy beast, as the Golden State seems to get hotter and hotter with each passing year. Just sitting there and taking it is not an option, unless you want to suffer an unnecessary heatstroke. Instead, it pays to fight back with these five essential techniques. With the right approach and mindset, anyone can beat the heat.
What are the Health Risks Posed by a Heat Wave?
Heat waves are not merely a comfort issue. Prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures can lead to a host of different health complications.
Heat strokes occur when your body cannot control its temperature, anymore. When you can no longer cool yourself down, your internal temperature can reach as high as 106° F. You start losing consciousness, you become confused and your speech is slurred.
If left untreated, heat strokes can lead to seizures and (worst case scenario) death. While you can recover in one to two days, it is possible to incur long-term organ damage that can take either months or a year to heal from.
High temperatures can also lead to further respiratory complications. Increasing temperatures correlate to rising ozone pollution on the ground level. If you already have asthma, pneumonia, lung cancer, or any other respiratory diseases, you have to be extra careful when you are dealing with heat waves.
The heat can also cause skin damage. As you expose yourself to the sun, your skin gets dried out and exposed to UV rays. The damage can add up, leading to wrinkles, acne, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
How can I Avoid Heat-Related Complications?
With the right preparation, any of our healthcare heroes can beat the heat. Listed below are some tips on how to stay cool, without breaking the bank.
Drink Water Periodically
Staying hydrated is always important, but especially so following a huge heatwave warning. On top of regulating body temperature, water keeps organs functioning, staves off illnesses and infections and lubricates your joints to keep them spry and flexible.
Drinking water also keeps you energized and awake throughout the day, as opposed to being completely worn down and groggy. Conversely, not hydrating throughout the day will lead to further complications such as fever, diarrhoea, and excessive sweating. This may seem like a simple reminder, but it can be easy to forget to drink water periodically throughout the day, especially when you are busy with your HCP schedule.
Bringing a large jug of water and making it a habit to drink throughout the day is a great remedy for this. Though 8 cups of water is the “accepted” minimum, appropriate fluid intake depends on the person.
Consume Lighter Meals, Throughout the Day
Heavy, protein-packed dishes will stimulate your metabolism, which can lead to increased body heat. Oily and fatty meals like pizza or burgers also take more effort for the body to digest, which leads to a sense of sluggishness and heat. When heatwave news hits, it is recommended that you eat light and healthy meals throughout the day whenever possible. A nice salad or fruit bowl in the middle of a summer’s day may be just what you need to beat the heat.
Not only are they nutritious, but the high water content of many fruits and vegetables can help you stay hydrated throughout the day. Strawberries, cucumbers, onions, lettuce and apples are just a couple examples of ingredients with high water content. Stews and soups with high fluid content are also similarly helpful, in this regard. If you enjoy meat and are looking for good summer alternatives, grilled fish provides healthy fatty acids that come with a host of health benefits.
Steer Clear of Alcohol
Somewhat paradoxically, drinking alcohol is the last thing you want to do to stay hydrated. Alcohol is a diuretic that causes fluids to leave your body from your blood through the renal system (i.e. the kidneys, ureters and bladders).
If you drink excessively, you will get dehydrated at a quicker rate. Drinking with friends may be tempting in the middle of a heatwave in California, but you ideally want to either limit your intake or drink lots of water to compensate for the loss. It is important to note that caffeine has a similar diuretic effect but at a milder capacity. You need to drink at least 5 cups of brewed coffee before you see any significant fluid loss.
Protect your Skin
As was mentioned earlier, heat waves can lead to significant skin damage. Use umbrellas or sun hats to avoid direct exposure to the sun, when you go outside.
Even if you are staying inside, you want to protect yourself from UV rays. Incorporate sunscreen into your skincare routine, and apply it religiously, every morning.
Let Air Circulate Throughout your House
When air circulates, the temperature goes down and polluting substances disperse and filter out of your home. You want to do your best to promote this kind of air circulation. On cool evenings or afternoons, open your doors and/or windows while turning on your fans. Box fans and ceiling fans can be used to get the air moving through these openings.
At peak hours, when the sun is up and temperatures are steadily climbing, close the windows, doors, curtains and blinds to keep your room cold. If you have an air conditioner and you can shoulder the cost, turning it on during some brutal heatwave weather is highly recommended.
Make use of Essential Oils
These home remedies may be unorthodox for some, but they can be potent if used correctly. Certain essential oil blends have cooling properties like menthol, which activates the cold nerves of your skin. Orange oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil and vetiver oil are just a handful of prominent examples.
There are numerous ways you can apply these oils. For one, you can put them into your home diffuser, which will disperse the oils in your home area with no further input. If you use a body mist and you need to cool down while on the go, that is also a perfectly viable way to apply these natural substances.
Turn off your Electronics
Electronic devices like your computer generate heat, when you use them. This is normally negligible, but you can feel the difference in the middle of a heatwave. If you can help it, consider turning off electronic devices you are not using during the early-to–mid-afternoon. This will also save you money in the long run, since you are putting on your electricity expenditure.
Wear Proper Attire
Tight-fitting clothes or outfits made of heavy materials will trap heat. In the middle of a heat wave, you want to turn to lighter and more breathable outfits. Cotton, nylon/polyester, linen, and silk are a few examples of perfect clothing materials for the summer.
Cool off Directly
If all else fails, a splash of cold water may be what the doctor ordered. At home, HCPs can take a cold shower to beat the heat.
You can also take a damp washcloth, and wipe all of the hottest parts on your body. If you feel like going outside, a dip in the pool may be what you are looking for.
Modify your Exercise Routine
Even in a heatwave, you still want to do your best to stick to your exercise routine. That being said, you may want to make a few changes to your regimen, to account for the heat. Working out or taking walks in the evening, when it is cooler, is a good way to continue burning calories without risking a heat stroke. If possible, you can try working out indoors with the air conditioning on. You can do this at a gym, or with your own personal home exercise setup.
Swimming is another good workout to adopt, during the heatwave. You can continue with your regular intensity while keeping cool and remaining at a healthy internal temperature. Just be sure to put on sunscreen and stretch, before each swim.