Weather often makes the headlines in health news. This is because we are affected by the natural environment we live in, despite all our ingenious efforts at protecting ourselves against the elements. Take, for example, temperature.
Extreme temperatures can cause a great deal of harm to the human body. In fact, it’s hard to say which is more dangerous — too much heat or too much cold. These days, most of us are worried about too much heat. Heat waves have already swept across parts of the U.S. and Canada, even though summer is far from over. These heat waves, climatologists warn, are likely to become more frequent.
This is a cause for real concern when you consider the aftermath of a heat wave in Europe a number of years ago: an estimated 30,000 deaths were likely caused by the searing temperatures.
Heat can adversely affect your body in a number of ways. You can suffer from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, heat edema (when your hands, feet and ankles swell), heat rash, and heat cramps. To help prevent these symptoms (some of which can be serious), here are six tips for staying cool during a heat wave.
1. Use an air conditioner. Not everyone likes them, and you don’t have to use them every day, but keep one in working order for those days when the temperature gets too hot. If you only have an air conditioner in one room, consider using fans elsewhere in your home. While they can’t add cool air to your surroundings, fans can still help to draw cooler air into your home at night. Don’t forget to draw your curtains to block out direct sunlight during the day.
2. Stay hydrated. Liquids cool your body temperature. Drink water throughout the day. Like most people, you may lose your appetite during hotter weather. You may need to drink more to compensate for this.
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3. Take a break from the heat by going to a cool place. It could be a shady spot under a tree or an air-conditioned shopping mall, grocery store, movie theater, or library. To get a little exercise, walk in a mall or go for a swim at the local pool.
4. Take cool baths or showers.
5. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. These healing foods have high water content and can help to cool you down. Watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and salads are all good choices when it comes to lowering your body temperature.
6. Avoid direct sunlight. If you have to go outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat and light colored clothing that won’t attract the heat of the sun. Sunscreen will protect against UV radiation, but not against the heat.
Just a few other words of advice: NEVER leave a person or pet in your care inside a parked car during a heat wave. The temperature inside a car parked in the sun rises very fast and can become dangerous in a matter of minutes — it’s just too risky! Also, keep track of seniors and phone them regularly during heat waves to make sure they are coping.