Keeping Cool in the Summer Sun
Some of the biggest health concerns when it’s hot are dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than it takes in, which can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, especially in hot weather. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body’s internal temperature rises and the body is unable to cool itself due to lack of fluid, leading to symptoms such as muscle cramps, lightheadedness, weakness, profuse sweating, and vomiting. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke when the body’s temperature regulation fails and internal body temperature rises to 40 degrees C or more. This is a life-threatening emergency that can cause mental status changes, dry skin (lack of sweating), seizure, shock, organ failure, or even death. Measures to stay cool and hydrated to prevent heat illness must be taken seriously in extreme heat.
Ways to manage the intense summer heat include:
Keeping your home and body cool
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you should keep your home below 32 C during the day and 24 C at night. However, many homes in the Czech Republic do not have air conditioning (AC) so maintaining these temperatures can be difficult. If necessary, run some fans inside your home to increase circulation, close your blinds during the day, and consider going out to a local restaurant or other venues with AC. Opening your windows at night will also allow the cooler night air to bring down the temperature inside your house if you do not have AC.
There are several steps you can take to keep your body cool. One is to take cold showers and baths. If these aren’t readily available, then try to cool off your body’s natural cooling points. These can be found by feeling for your pulses around the neck, elbows, wrists, knees, and feet. It’s also important to wear light, loose-fitting clothing, and avoid long pants and jackets. Make sure that you drink water regularly throughout the day to avoid dehydration. As a good rule of thumb, if you are sweating, you should probably drink some more water! Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and sugar can also help to prevent dehydration.
Many of us are very active normally and do not want to lose our fitness routines because of high temperatures. However, it is important to take precautions when exercising in excessive temperatures. This summer’s heatwave has already claimed several lives across Europe, at least two of which involved cyclists competing in the heat. When possible, avoid exercising in the heat of the day (go in the morning from 4-7 am when it’s cooler), wear appropriate clothing, and drink adequate fluids. If possible, exercise in an air-conditioned setting. If you start to feel off during your workout, take a break or save it for another day. It will be much better, in the long run, to take it easy than to end up in the hospital with heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Watching out for friends and family
Check up on friends, family, and neighbors, especially those who are elderly, disabled, or live alone. It’s also smart to discuss the heatwave with family members so that everyone can take measures to stay safe during the high temperatures. Remember that pets and children are also vulnerable and should never be left in parked cars.