When you’re outside this summer, beware of muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea or confusion because these are warning signs of heat stress.
Heat stress refers to a group of heat-related illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Our bodies experience heat stress when it cannot function at a proper operating temperature when the temperature outside is close to or exceeds normal body temperature. It’s difficult for the body to allow excess heat to escape. So the body attempts to regulate its temperature by expanding blood vessels to carry more blood to the upper layers of skin and away from active muscles such as the brain and other vital organs. That’s why you may be tired or woozy in extreme heat.
When summer heat is combined with high humidity things can get worse. The more moisture present in the air, the harder it is for sweat to evaporate. So when the humidity is high, you may feel more uncomfortable than if the temperature was higher and the humidity lower. On such days, avoid strenuous outdoor activity, particularly when it’s really hot: re-schedule for cooler times of the day (early morning and evening), and spend the afternoon somewhere with air conditioning like the movies or the mall.
DOS AND DON’TS
❂ Do not exercise or work in high temperatures and/or high humidity — especially between 10am and 4pm.
❂ Drink, and drink some more! Drink lots of water before, during and after you’ve been in the sun, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Or drink beverages with electrolytes (salt, potassium and calcium) throughout the day, every 15—20 minutes. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks as they hamper the body’s ability to moderate temperature.
❂ Wear a hat and loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing when outside.
❂ Apply cool cloths to your face, neck and arms, and take short baths and showers.
❂ Get under the shade and drink water immediately if you start to feel any heat stress symptoms.