Temperatures are soaring across the country this summer which is especially dangerous for older adults, children, athletes, outdoor workers, and people with chronic illnesses. Extreme heat causes conditions like heat stroke which can lead to death or permanent disability without treatment.
This article explains why extreme heat is dangerous and offers ways you can keep your body temperature down when it’s hot.
Extreme Heat Risk Factors
Extreme temperatures can cause your body temperature to rise quickly. Our bodies control temperature by sweating. When your body cannot cool itself by sweating, you are at risk of heat stroke.
People over age 60 are at higher risk in extreme heat because their bodies cannot regulate temperature as well. Sweat glands shrink and become less sensitive as we age, so we sweat less. Blood pressure medication and other prescriptions can also contribute to heat intolerance because they interfere with sweating.
Children are at higher risk because they can’t monitor their own body signs. They might not feel hot until it’s too late, so they need adults to keep them safe.
If you work or exercise outside, you are also at increased risk because the combination of external heat and the heat your body generates is deadly. A study on wildland firefighters found that “intense physical activity can turn the body into a furnace, raising heat production 15-fold.”
Scientists who monitored the firefighters with chest sensors and internal thermometers they swallowed found that the combination of external heat and internal heat can shut a body down and cause life-long medical issues. Their study explains that while staying hydrated is imperative, it won’t stop your body temperature from rising once you’re overheated.
“You can’t drink yourself out of a heat-related injury,” says Joseph Domitrovich, an exercise physiologist in the study.
If you have signs of heat exhaustion including fatigue, headache, cramps, nausea, or dizziness, please stop exercising or working and get out of the heat immediately. If you, or another person, stops sweating or is confused, agitated, or slurring their speech, please call 911 immediately!
If you don’t have those signs but struggling to stay cool, try these tips to help your body beat the heat.
Tips to Stay Cool and Healthy in Extreme Heat
1. Get out of the heat – To prevent heat-related illness during heat waves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying in air-conditioning, or at least out of the sun, and staying hydrated. Air conditioners may not be enough during a heat wave, though.
2. Cool your pulse points – Cooling your pulse points, where blood flow is closest to the surface of the skin, can drop your body temperature fast. This method helps you avoid overheating and can cool someone in distress while you get help. Run cool water or cold pack these pulse points to cool yourself: sides of your neck, inside your wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, or groin, and top of the feet.
3. Drink hot tea – While it seems like the coldest beverage would be best on a 100-degree day, drinking hot tea, especially with mint, is better. Hot liquids cause you to perspire which cools your body. People in hot climates drink afternoon tea regularly.
4. Eat spicy food – Similarly, eating spicy foods increases blood circulation and causes gustatory facial sweating, which is sweating on the face, scalp, and neck. After feeling a warm flush at first, you’ll feel your body cool.
5. Eat cooling foods – In addition to spicy foods and tea, many foods are hydrating and cooling to the body. They’re also full of helpful minerals and vitamins. Enjoy these foods to keep your cool: watermelon, coconuts and coconut water, citrus fruits, cucumbers, peaches, greens, garlic, cilantro, chilies, and mint.
6. Take supplements – Studies find that people living and working in hot environments may benefit from water-soluble supplements that are lost in sweat. Vitamin c supplements are recommended to reduce heat stress, especially for people living in or acclimating to hotter environments. Other antioxidants, vitamin A (beta-carotene) and vitamin E, may also help your body stay regulated.
Magnesium, potassium, and other electrolytes can also help you stay cool and healthy. Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps your body regulate temperature. It also helps you maintain healthy blood pressure. Potassium is also important for heart health. Our sustained-release electrolytes deliver magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, chloride, and sodium over four to six hours to replace electrolytes you lose through sweat.
7. Chill yourself and your sheets – To help drop your body temperature so you can rest, bag your sheets and put them in the freezer for a few hours before bed. Consider taking a shower to cool your body and then lie on the chilled sheets.
Please note that cooling tricks and fans only help when temperatures inside are below 95 degrees. If your home is hotter, please go to a cooling center. Also, if your body temperature reaches 103 degrees, go to a cooling center or get help immediately!