Weather forecasters have predicted a warmer than average August for Tennessee. Aren’t you glad to hear that! Although August is typically a hot, muggy month for us, we have even greater levels of heat and humidity to look forward to.
This is an important health topic. Excessive heat and humidity create a challenge for many people that can be affected in numerous ways.
People with average health conditions are typically only aggravated by excessive heat; however, people with frail health conditions may experience significant health challenges in the same conditions. People with even moderate health conditions including those middle-aged or older may find that the demands of adjusting to the excessive heat may place enough strain on their body that their health status declines.
There are several key ways to mitigate the health threats as well as the aggravation associated with excessive heat. Here are a few tips that are helpful.
1. Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day. This one may seem painfully obvious to some readers; however, some will need reminding. Last week my family and I were driving near the Avenues shopping area when we passed a 20-something male running along the sidewalk, apparently for exercise. It was early afternoon and very hot.
I glanced at my dash and the temperature was 102 degrees. During the hottest portion of one of the hottest days, the man decided to go for a run. He was not jogging. He was flat out running as if the finish line were just ahead for the Olympics. To further add a challenge to his cardiac and respiratory system he was wearing a surgical mask. There was no on around him at all, so the mask played no role in protecting him or anyone else from COVID-19. To say the least, this approach to physical exercise is not recommended at all.
2. Hydrate. Drink more water. All during the day. This is especially important if you know you will be outside in hot weather or engaging in exercise or physical exertion. It is best to hydrate the day before you anticipate heavy activity as well as an hour or so ahead of time. Dehydration can happen quickly even for people that don’t think they are vulnerable.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- · Feeling thirsty. (However, some people will not feel thirsty, so don’t think that a lack of thirst indicates your hydration is fine.)
- · Dry or sticky mouth.
- · Not peeing very much. If you are not peeing, you need to drink more water.
- · Dark yellow pee. Your pee should be light colored. The darker it gets the more likely dehydration is affecting you.
- · Dry, cool skin. If you stop sweating when you should be, think about dehydration.
- · Headache. Before you pop the pain pills with a big glass of water, try drinking the water by itself first and wait a half hour. Your headache may improve with replenishing your body’s fluids
- · Muscle cramps. If you are frequently feeling cramps, spasms, twitches or good old fashioned “Charlie-horses”, you may be dehydrated. Although mineral depletion such as magnesium can often be involved, it is simple to increase your intake of water to see if that helps.
- · Restless sleep. Stay hydrated to enjoy better sleep.
- · Body aches and painful joints. Dehydration commonly causes increased pain. If you take the time and make the effort to hydrate yourself well, you will likely have less pain and better sleep.
3. The third tip is to begin to slowly acclimatize yourself to hotter weather. Gradually begin to spend some more time in the warmer weather so your body can adjust to the heat. Gradual is the key word here. The example mentioned earlier of the man running in the hottest part of the day in 102 degree heat wearing a mask to restrict his breathing is not a good example of acclimatization.
Begin spending more time in the warmer weather under controlled circumstances so your body can be exposed to some heat but you can limit the exposure to your own personal circumstances. Your body has an amazing ability to adapt to its environment.
4. Eat smaller meals. This tip may surprise some readers. Eating smaller meals can actually help your body maintain a more even cooler temperature. The more you eat, the harder your body has to work to digest. After heavy meals blood is diverted away from the outside layers of skin to the interior digestive organs. Blood flow to the skin is essential for your body to keep its cool. The blood is cooled by exposure to air, being helped by the evaporation of perspiration. This cooled blood then circulates inside your body to cool the internal organs.
Look for additional ways to reduce the risk of overheating in the warmer days ahead. It is important to pay attention to your body’s need to stay cool and stay healthy.
Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com.