PHYSICAL HEALTH IN HOT WEATHER
By mid-August, most humid-climate residents are sick of summer heat. On occasion, literally. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke are real threats to anyone who plays or works outdoors. Sometimes you aren’t safe even indoors, especially if your home lacks proper air conditioning.
Here’s a Top Ten list of tips for keeping your family healthy in hot weather:
- Dress in lightweight clothing, preferably loose-fitting cotton in light colors. You’ll absorb less heat and catch more breeze.
- Drink a full glass of water every hour. If anyone in your household “hates the taste” of water, use a filter or squeeze in some fresh-fruit juice—but don’t substitute sweet drinks. Even bottled fruit juice can cause weight gain and other health problems if taken in quantity.
- For meals and snacks, eat small helpings and focus on lower-calorie options with high water content: fresh produce, yogurt, chilled soups. If you still want ice cream, stick to natural-ingredients brands. Top your scoop with fresh berries and nuts, not hot fudge.
- Save on air conditioning bills without overheating: spend as much time as you can in the coolest rooms of your home (this usually means first-floor, north-facing rooms with few outside walls). If you must turn off the AC altogether, keep fans on at highest speed and (to maximize circulation of cooling air) open all the windows and doors you can. Or get out to a shady porch, back yard, forested park, or air-conditioned public building.
- Even indoors with air conditioning, avoid vigorous activities during the hottest part of the day. Consider doing as traditional Equatorial societies do: take a long nap after lunch, and work later into the evening.
- When you do go out, especially with children, try to avoid parking your car in the sun. If you have to leave a car exposed to the full solar-heating effect, lower all the windows for a few minutes when you get back inside, so the hottest air will blow out quickly. (At home, consider installing an awning or carport for vehicles left in the driveway.)
- Also for when you return to a hot car: beware of steering wheels and seatbelt buckles that may reach hand-blistering temperatures! Use gloves or a towel to handle them.
- If you need to go anywhere without a car, put on hats and thick layers of sunscreen (perhaps even carry a sun umbrella); keep to the shade all you can; walk slowly; and time your arrival at public-transportation stops to minimize time waiting outdoors. (There are apps to estimate the exact time your bus will arrive: check the transit authority website.)
- If kids want to play outdoors in early morning or late afternoon, provide a shady area—preferably with running-water features—and careful briefing on hydration and rest breaks.
- If anyone shows signs of heat illness—dizziness, cramps, unusually heavy or light sweating, changes in skin temperature or pulse rate—have him lie down in a shady or air-conditioned place, remove excess clothing, sponge down with cool water, and sip additional liquid slowly. For all but the mildest symptoms, call for professional medical help.
Stay healthy and keep cool!