06 May 5 ways to stay safe in the heat
Summer is around the corner and so are the extreme temperatures that we are uncomfortably familiar with, living in this part of the world. While having the sun year-round has proven health benefits, the sweltering heat can also cause health issues, the most common of which are heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
The UAE and the wider GCC is home to people who come from diverse climates but coping with the heat can be a major challenge for some; while some of us who are used to living in extremely hot climates may ignore the warning signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion assuming it to be normal to experience in the summer.
Whether you spend time outdoors by choice or by necessity here are 5 things that you can do to ensure you remain safe in the heat.
1. Stay hydrated
This cannot be stressed enough. When the weather is really hot the human body cools down using a self-regulating process. This process which helps to lower the body temperature is called sweating. Sweating uses up a lot of water to cool down the body and so replenishing the water levels in the body is critical. When you do not consume enough water to support this sweating process the body begins to dehydrate and can lead to more serious conditions such as heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Those who spend time outdoors for work are at most risk along with the elderly, small children, infants, and those with existing health conditions (diabetes, kidney problems, etc.). So, how much water should you drink? Aim to drink at least 2 litres of water every day and remember to drink even when you are not feeling thirsty.
2. Eat water-rich foods
The type of food we eat plays a key role in determining how the body responds to heat. Choose fruits and vegetables that are rich in water as this will help to replenish fluid loss from sweating. Watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, honeydew melons and mushrooms are some examples of food that can support the body’s hydration requirements.
3. Wear Natural fabrics
Another way to stay cool in the heat is to wear clothes made of breathable fabrics that absorb sweat and allow for air to circulate, thus cooling the body. Cotton and linen are popular choices and are lightweight too. Avoid clothing made of polyester and rayon which are water resistant and sticks to the body when you sweat, instead of absorbing it. Such materials are also not breathable, preventing airflow and trapping heat within the clothing.
4. Wear sunscreen
This is a must for everyone. Summertime in this region is not the time to work on that tan. Between the hours of 10am and 4pm (2) the sun’s rays are strongest which means that your skin is likely to burn faster. Sun burn reduces your body’s ability to cool down in the heat. There is also the risk of long-term skin damage from frequent, intense sun exposure, and potentially skin cancer. People of all skin tones are at risk, with light skinned people being at highest risk. A safe way to protect your skin is to use sunscreen regularly, especially when outdoors. Look for sunscreen with SPF 30 and above.
4. Limit outdoor activities
The sun’s rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm. During this time, it is always advisable to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities or exercising. If you must, then do so in a shaded area and preferably indoors. This will help to prevent the body from heating up too quickly. If you must step outside during this period, ensure that you wear breathable clothing that covers the arms and legs and wear a wide brimmed hat that will protect you face, neck and shoulders as well.
Along with practising the best ways to stay safe in the heat, it is important to be aware and watch out for signs of heat illnesses. Heat exhaustion, while manageable with the right medical attention, can quickly become fatal if unchecked. If you notice these signs in yourself or others, you must seek medical attention immediately:
- High body temperature (~ 103F with dry skin)
- Muscle cramps
- Dizziness and headache
- Fainting or unconsciousness
- Nausea or vomiting
Whether you are looking for medical guidance on staying safe in the heat or have questions or concerns about heat related illnesses, our doctors at Health at Hand can help. Speak to one of our family physicians today via the Health at Hand app.