Things have been pretty depressing of late – while many of us are now starting to find a way back to some kind of normality (and the clinic is re-open, in case you were wondering) some sunshine was most certainly what the doctor ordered. It looks like the next few weeks may bring us a full-blown heatwave rather than just some gentle rays, however, so here are my 5 top tips for enjoying the weather safely.
Heatwaves, what are the risks?
The sun is good for us, right? Well, sunshine is certainly good for our psychological health, and essential for the production of some vitamins – but too much sun can cause some health problems. Because we don’t get an awful lot of very hot weather in the UK, we tend to be less aware of these risks, which is really half the problem.
The main risks posed by a heatwave are:
- not having enough water (dehydration)
- overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing
- heat exhaustion and heatstroke
The NHS suggests that those at most risk during a heatwave are:
- older people, especially those over 75
- babies and young children
- people with a serious long-term condition, especially heart or breathing problems
- people with mobility problems – for example, people with Parkinson’s disease or who have had a stroke
- people with serious mental health problems
- people on certain medicines, including those that affect sweating and temperature control
- people who misuse alcohol or drugs
- people who are physically active – for example, labourers or those doing sports
Let’s look at some top tips to avoid problems in the sun!
1 – Recognise dehydration.
This isn’t just a heat issue – many of us don’t drink nearly enough water throughout the course of the day. As a general rule, you should drink about 2 litres a day – and that’s water – just water, not squash, fizzy drinks or tea and coffee. In fact, these drinks all have a diuretic effect, meaning they make you more dehydrated.
Symptoms of dehydration often include headaches a dry mouth, eyes, and lips as well as muscle cramps. Similarly, when you go to the toilet take note of the color of your urine – the darker it is the more likely you are to be dehydrated (a light straw yellow, or clear, is ideal).
If you get dehydrated the best treatment is to notice early, and rehydrate! Drink plenty of water, use an oral rehydration powder, and rest until you feel better. If symptoms don’t subside after a few hours, consider calling your doctor.
2- Beware of heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is not at all uncommon during a heatwave, especially amongst the young and elderly. It is caused by a loss of salt and water in the body and can happen over a period of time –usually due to sweating. Spending all day outside without replenishing water and salt supplies can do this – but as you might imagine, strenuous exercise which causes you to sweat a lot can also quickly leave you with heat exhaustion.
If you have a headache, feel dizzy or confused, or have a loss of appetite and is feel sick, you may have heat exhaustion. Other symptoms include cramps in the arms and legs and in serious cases a weakening pulse and shallow breaths. As you can see, one of the most insidious aspects of heat exhaustion is that it does not sound dissimilar to how we might feel after a particularly intense workout – in heat exhaustion, however, these symptoms don’t tend to fade quickly, as they do after we stop working out.
If you suspect heat exhaustion, get out of the heat – drink plenty of fluids and drunk an isotonic sports drink to rebalance the body. One of the best ways to avoid this risk is not to exercise during the hottest part of the day – instead, opt for an early morning workout, or later in the evening.
3 – Be concerned about Heatstroke
Heatstroke us more serious than heat exhaustion, but has similar (more severe) symptoms. can be life-threatening for little ones and it’s even more serious than heat exhaustion. Whereas heat exhaustion can be treated at home, assuming you have the correct tools and are in good health – suspected heatstroke warrants a 999 call.
Those with heatstroke often report a headache, feeling dizzy or confused or strangely restless. The more serious symptoms which should concern you include hot flushed and dry skin, a full bounding pulse, a fast deterioration in level of response or motor skills, and a body temperature above 40C.
The most important action here is to cool the body –
- Remove outer clothing and leave the heat immediately
- Wrap yourself, or the victim a wet sheet and pour cool water over them until their temperature drops to below 37.5C
- Call 999
4 – Make nights a bit more bearable!
Hot days are great, but for many of us, hot nights are a real nightmare! Unless you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning (in which case, check the filters and ensure that it is working before the sun hits!) then there are still some practical steps you can take to keep things cool.
During the day, close blinds on windows which are facing the sun directly – but leave the windows open so that some air can still circulate. Doing so also reduces the surface area of heating glass presented to the sun. At the same time, open windows not facing the sun wide to allow air circulation. At midday, swap the configuration around.
Consider a cold bath – rather than a hot shower before bed – a cold bath can lower your core temperature slightly and make you feel more comfortable. Finally, if you have a set of silk sheets anywhere, it might be time to grab those – silk is considerably cooler than cotton, and can help to reduce temperatures at night.
5 – Remember social distancing
I hate to be a buzzkill and bring Cronoavirus up in another blog, but I did want to quickly remind everyone that the current crisis has not gone away. Easing of lockdown means that there is already a greater risk for the virus to spread, but if we all stop following the rules and start to socialise as normal, there’s a very real risk we could end up right back in lockdown. From a chiropractic standpoint, the very best recommendation we can give is for everyone to follow guidelines and to defeat the disease sooner, rather than later so that we can all go back to a real normal.
One useful tip on this point – during coronavirus, it’s very important we all continue to wash our hands with soap and warm water regularly – however, once you have done this, consider running your hands under the cold tap for a moment, this can help to reduce heating from this process.