Beat the heat this summer with these safety and hydrating tips!
This time of year, even the most seasoned athlete can feel defeated when attempting to exercise and stay hydrated in the extreme heat and humidity. Dehydration can happen before we know it. Our bodies thirst mechanism doesn’t even alert us that we are in need of hydration until we are already dehydrated! From kids playing during summer camp, to seniors trying their best to stay cool; it’s important for all ages play smart and beat the heat.
Getting overheated can cause more than just physical exhaustion. In fact, sciencealert.com says by the time you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated, and often, dehydration can be confused with hunger. Athletes who encounter dehydration will experience exhaustion quicker as the body finds it more difficult for the cardiovascular system to function, increasing the heart rate to maintain blood pressure.
“Every [adult] person needs around three liters of water day,” said Kelly O’Hara, R.D. “This number differs slightly for men and women, and overall body mass. I often tell clients who experience more than necessary hunger cravings throughout the day, to drink a large glass of water before grabbing something to eat, to see if that satisfies what their body needs. During the hot months, this is even more important to avoid dehydration.”
O’Hara also said that if you’re exercising, or working outdoors and you experience fatigue, dizziness, confusion, or other common symptoms of dehydration, seek shade immediately and consume water. Sugary drinks such as soda or juice might serve as immediately satisfying, but can dehydrate in the end.
“Soda doesn’t replace the fluids that we lose when we sweat,” said O’Hara. “If it’s a caffeinated drink, it can be doubly counterproductive because you will have to urinate more quickly! Stick to water if possible.”
For athletes training in the outdoors in the heat, O’Hara suggests having scheduled water breaks throughout the course of a workout. If you’re training for a race, stash water bottles throughout the course so you can regularly rehydrate. The same rule applies for athletes practicing outside for sports such as soccer or baseball. Taking regular breaks to rehydrate can help to prevent added fatigue or dizziness. This will help maintain performance levels as well.
Parents and caretakers need to be extra cautious of little ones playing outdoors this time of year since they are not as likely to be conscious of dehydration. If a child is experiencing dry mouth, hasn’t had a wet diaper or used the restroom in several hours, has dark circles around the eyes, she might be dehydrated.
If your child is going to be outside playing or doing physical activity of any kind, make sure they drink water regularly. During play, take breaks every 30 minutes, even if your child isn’t complaining about being thirsty.
Webmd.com states that dehydration is cumulative.If your child is 1% or 2% dehydrated on Monday and doesn't drink enough fluids that night, then gets 1% or 2% dehydrated again on Tuesday, that means your child is 3% or 4% dehydrated at the end of the day.
If your child develops heat exhaustion, give her a break from the sun for a couple days. Ensure she drinks plenty of fluids, and if her state doesn’t improve seek medical attention.
Just as children are more susceptible to heat exhaustion, so are older adults. O’Hara explains that older adults don’t adjust as well to sudden changes in their surroundings as younger adults. They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
“For older adults it is important to stay out of the heat,” explained O’Hara. “Stay in air-conditioning. If you don’t have air conditioning, contact the local health department and seek out additional resources.”
Older adults are also recommended to drink more water than usual, and not wait until they feel thirsty. Some additional tips include:
- Don’t use the stove or oven to cook, or anything that will make you and your home hot
- Wear loose, lightweight clothing that breathes well
- Take cool showers or baths
- Don’t engage in strenuous activities that may cause you to overheat
Regardless of your age, the heat can play a toll on anyone who doesn’t take the right steps to handle it. Seek medical care immediately if you are experiencing dizziness, dry mouth, and fatigue. Local resources such as the Vigo County Public Library, YMCA, Lighthouse Mission, to name a few, often open their doors to those in need during extreme weather conditions. Keep tabs on the weather and check the local news for any health and safety updates and for a list of available resources. As we get further into August, the heat will become more intense. Exercising and playing smart and staying informed is the best way to beat the heat!