Top 7 heatwave health tips
How to stay safe in the sun
The sun is shining, there’s not a cloud in the sky and temperatures are rocketing. Great news! Or is it? As fun as the sunshine can be, it can also be dangerous if you’re not careful. Follow these 7 heatwave health tips to make sure your fun in the sun is safe.
When temperatures soar, so do our levels of anger, stress and anxiety. Research carried out by the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation found that this is because your heart rate and blood pressure rise as your body tries to cool itself down. Combine that with the anxiousness that results from dehydration, and you can quickly become extremely stressed during a heatwave without even knowing why. Luckily, there are a few ways of fighting back. Cold green tea is a great de-stresser in the heat, as it contains the amino acid theanine, which reduces anxiety. Likewise, a sneaky bit of dark chocolate will calm you down when you’re too hot. Research published in the Journal of Proteome Research showed that people who eat dark chocolate on average have lower levels of the stress inducing hormone cortisol.
Cut back on alcohol
There’s nothing quite like a refreshing beer in the sunshine, but if you want to stay heatwave healthy you’ll need to limit how much alcohol you drink. In fact, according to a study at Loughborough University, it might even be best to cut back on alcohol all together when temperatures rise. The study found that even drinking a small amount of weak beer causes diuretic effects that lead to dehydration. Most of the time this isn’t a problem – a heatwave is a different story. With the amount of water you’ll be losing to sweat, adding alcohol to the equation can be a recipe for disaster, leading to dehydration induced vomiting and dizziness – a sure fire way to ruin your fun in the sun!
Recognise the signs
Forget tornados and floods – heat is the number one killer when it comes to weather. This is because more often than not, the signs of heat-related illness go ignored until it’s too late. The first signs you’ll want to look out for in yourself or the people you’re with during a heatwave are dizziness, sickness, and extremely heavy sweating. All of these are signs of heat exhaustion, which can be treated by getting out of the sun and taking on plenty of fluids. If not, heatstroke can develop. Trust us; this is something you’ll want to avoid. Heatstroke is extremely serious, and results in a drastic rise in body temperature, trouble breathing and even loss of consciousness. If you suspect heatstroke you should immediately call an ambulance, as left untreated it can cause brain damage and even death.
Replenish your salt levels
According to Claude Piantadosi, director of the Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology, one of the main health risks of a heatwave is reduced salt levels. When heat and humidity are high your body has to perspire more, which leads to the loss of salt through sweat. Low levels of salt in your muscles can cause extremely uncomfortable stabbing pains, known as heat cramps. If you notice your muscles are cramping up in the heat, try mixing a small amount of salt into any water you drink to replenish your depleted salt levels. You can combine this with some sugar to mask the salty taste.
Avoid the car
Think it’s a good idea to avoid the heat by travelling by car instead of walking out in the sun? Think again. Research conducted at Stanford University found that prolonged time spent in a car when temperatures are high can potentially be deadly, especially amongst children. During the study the researchers noted an astonishing increase of in-car temperature from 22ºC (72ºF) to 47ºC (117ºF) in under an hour, even with the window cracked open. This kind of rapid temperature rise is extremely dangerous, and its gradual nature means you might not even notice it until you start feeling unwell. If the distance allows it, a leisurely walk will be far better for you if you dress accordingly and stick to the shade where possible.
Be wary of fans
If you’re stuck in an office during a heatwave you might be desperate for an electric fan to cool you down a bit. According to researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration, this is a very bad idea. All a fan can do is push air at you – if that air is hot already, all you’ll be doing is increasing your body temperature without even realising, especially if the fan is near a window. Instead of blowing hot air at yourself, the researchers suggest using a cool misting spray. Spray this in front of the fan and you’ll ensure that the air coming from the fan is actually cool. Plus it’s extremely refreshing, which is a nice bonus!
Watch out for humidity
The thermometer shouldn’t be the only thing you look at during a heatwave. There’s another potentially deadly factor you need to be wary of – humidity. When your body heats up it attempts to cool itself down by removing heat via the water vapour in sweat. If the air is already full of humidity, your body struggles to dispel enough heat via perspiration according to research carried out at the National Cheng Kung University, which can lead to your core temperature rising to dangerous levels. Next time you’re heading out in the heat, remember to check the humidity as well. If it’s high, it might be worth waiting until later in the day when things have cooled down slightly.