While soaring temperatures during peak summer aren’t exactly surprising, the unprecedented heatwave that‘s blanketing America and Canada is said to be related to a ‘heat dome’ in the region. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this happens when “strong, high-pressure atmospheric conditions combine with influences from La Niña, creating vast areas of sweltering heat that gets trapped under the high-pressure 'dome.'"
It’s also said that heatwaves are now affecting 25 percent more land in the Northern Hemisphere than they did in the 1980s because of climate change. Furthermore, weather experts have warned that the number of heatwaves is likely to rise in the western United States.
In such a situation, it is extremely important to keep yourself and your family safe by taking some preventive steps.
Who's most at risk from a heatwave?
While a heat-related illness can affect anyone, experts say that some are most vulnerable to it:
* The elderly (particularly 65 or older)
* Infants and young children
* People with chronic health problems (especially pre-existing heart disease) or disabilities
* People who are overweight
* People who don’t have air conditioning at home
* People who work outdoors throughout the day
It goes without saying that, if you fall in the vulnerable category or live with someone who does, you must take extra precautions to cope with the excessive heat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that adults at risk from a heatwave must be monitored twice a day during the summer months for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children need even more supervision during this time.
Tips To Cope With a Heatwave
1. Stay hydrated regularly, even when you don’t feel thirsty
Regardless of how active you are, one of the most important steps you can take to keep yourself safe in the sweltering heat is to keep yourself properly hydrated. The more you sweat because of the hot weather, the more salt and minerals you will lose from the body. So don’t wait until you’re thirsty; keep drinking water throughout the day so that your body temperature remains regulated. The Red Cross says that an average person needs to drink about three-quarters of a gallon of fluid (about 12 cups) daily. Drinking sports drinks with electrolytes can also help.
To determine if you’re getting plenty of fluids, pay attention to the color of your urine. Slightly yellow or clear urine means that you are likely sufficiently hydrated. However, if you are urinating infrequently and the color is dark yellow or orange, it’s a sign that you need to increase your fluid intake. Also remember that children, the elderly, and pets can easily become dehydrated without even realizing it. So make sure that they are drinking sufficient water.
2. Cool down with lukewarm showers
Taking a cool shower or bath at least twice or thrice a day is quite helpful to beat the heat. However, not everyone is comfortable taking cold showers. In that case, try lowering the temperature to lukewarm before adjusting it to cold. But make sure that the water isn’t too cold, as your body might then react to the cold by preserving heat.
3. Eat foods that will help you stay cool
Health experts say that eating foods with a higher water content like fruits and vegetables can help your body remain cool in the sweltering weather. Some water-rich foods that can help you stay hydrated are:
* Lettuce (Water content: 96%)
* Celery (Water content: 95%)
* Cucumber (Water content: 95%)
* Tomatoes (Water content: 94%)
* Watermelon (Water content: 92%)
* Strawberries (Water content: 91%)
* Cantaloupe (Water content: 90%)
* Peaches (Water content: 89%)
* Oranges (Water content: 88%)
* Plain Yogurt (Water content: 88%).
Include these foods in your diet during the summer months to energize yourself with hydration and nutrients.
Also, make sure that you stay away from hot foods like soups, as they will end up warming your body. If you are having salty foods, then drink an extra glass or two of water to balance it out.
4. Make arrangements to sleep well in the heat
Getting a night of good sleep in a heatwave-like situation can be quite difficult. Having an AC helps, but we can’t leave the AC running all night day after day, right? Ideally, a temperature of about 65°F (18.3°C) is considered perfect for sleep. But when the weather outside doesn’t cooperate with you, it can result in sleepless nights and leave you feeling tired and irritable the next day. Moreover, sleep deprivation can lead to reduced cognitive performance, memory issues, and reduced focus.
Thankfully, there are a few simple arrangements you can make to sleep soundly in the heat:
* Use a light and breathable bed sheet.
* Set up a fan or cooler near your bed.
* Spray your sheet with cold water before sleeping.
* A cold shower before bed can also make a difference.
* Make sure you are properly hydrated before hitting the hay. If you wake up in the middle of the night because of the heat, just drink a glass of cold water.
* Wrap your pillowcases in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for about 15 to 30 minutes before bed. The chill won’t last the whole night, but it should help you drift off to sleep comfortably.
5. Keep curtains closed during the day
During a heatwave, you should keep the curtains in your house closed during the day to keep direct sunlight out. This will also help your room become cooler. If it becomes breezy outside, you can always open the curtains again. But avoid using dark-colored or thick curtains or blinds, as they are likely to trap the heat and cause the temperature in your room to rise.
If you have an air conditioner, set it to a lower temperature. In case you don’t, a good way to cool the room quickly is to place a tray or dish of ice in front of a fan.
6. Know your body's quick-cooling spots
A quick way to cool your body down as the temperatures soar outside is to apply ice or a cold compress to certain parts of the body. Some of the most popular spots are the neck and wrists because they both contain pulse points. In these areas, the blood vessels are close to the surface of your skin. Hence, you can cool off your blood and body temperature by getting these points in contact with cool water.
Some experts also say that the inside of the elbows and knees, the tops of feet, and the inner ankles are quick-cooling spots. Use a cold towel or pour cold water onto these points to cool your body down effectively.
7. Avoid strenuous exercise. Keep it light.
Keeping your body active and fit is good, but you must cut down on exercise during the heat. Exercising in hot weather puts extra stress on your body. If you keep on overexerting yourself, you might be putting yourself at risk of illness. Strenuous exercise, along with the heat and humidity, can increase your core body temperature, and your body would then need to send more blood to circulate through your skin to cool itself down. This leaves less blood for your muscles which can lead to an abnormal increase in heart rate. If the humidity is also high and you continue to exercise, then your sweat doesn't easily evaporate from your skin, and that pushes your body temperature even higher.
If you have to work out, do so in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. Instead of long cardio sessions, opt for quick interval training during severe summer weather to ensure that your body doesn’t overheat. If any type of exercise makes your heart pound, leaves you gasping for breath, or makes you lightheaded, stop all activity and relax in a cool area.
8. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
The CDC warns that we should stay away from alcoholic, sugary, or caffeinated drinks in the heat, as they cause you to lose more body fluid. Consuming them in excessive amounts during a heatwave can lead to dehydration. Chilled drinks should also be avoided during this time, as they can cause stomach cramps.
The best drink is good old-fashioned water. Use an aluminum-lined bottle to store your drinking water to keep it cooler longer. Add fresh herbs, lemon, or orange slices to enhance the taste. Coconut water and fresh fruit juices are also great.
9. Use wet wipes and mist sprays
If you have to venture out during a heatwave, carry some wet wipes and a facial mist to keep yourself fresh and cool. Many new wet wipes and sprays are developed to lower your skin temperature and help you withstand a heatwave. Search for those at your local drugstore, and always keep them in your bag when you're heading out.
10. Recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness
Extreme summer heat leads to the risk of various heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Heat-related illness can make you confused or even unconscious. Watch out for any signs of heat illnesses. Some of the most common ones are:
* Hot dry skin
* Profuse sweating
* Cold, clammy skin
* Rapid heartbeat
* Nausea and vomiting
* Confusion, disorientation, or dizziness
* Muscle cramps
* Tiredness or fatigue
* Dark-colored urine.
If you or anyone you know experiences any of these symptoms, get to a cool place quickly and sip on some water immediately. You can also loosen your clothes and put a cold wet cloth on your body to help cool it down. If the symptoms don’t improve or worsen, seek immediate medical help.
Hot weather may also lead to a heat stroke, which is usually marked by high body temperature (103°F or higher), hot, red, dry, or damp skin, a rapid pulse, and confusion. If someone you know experiences these symptoms, get instant medical attention. Read our article on the Warning Signs of a Heat Stroke for more information.
Share these important tips with your loved ones!