July has been a hot month. The majority of the United States and parts of Canada have been trapped under a “heat dome.” It is unlikely to be the last time we experience this phenomenon, and as much as it might be uncomfortable, it can be a significant health threat.
When your body gets too hot, your internal cooling system can stop working. Further, you’ll be losing important electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium at a high pace. This can be very dangerous for people with heart conditions.
Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are the two major concerns with these types of temperatures, and they could be fatal. Temperatures across much of the United States are expected to hover around 90-100 F (high 30s and mid 40 C in Canada) without much relief in during the night. Staying cool, hydrated, and replenishing electrolytes is essential.
You’re particularly at risk for complications resulting from high heat if you have mobility issues or existing health complications like a heart condition. Symptoms to pay attention to include:
- Lightheadedness (like you may faint)
Ideally, you don’t want to get to that point. To increase the chance that it won’t, make sure you’re sipping on water throughout the day—you’ll know if you’re getting enough if you continue sweating. Also pay attention to the color of your urine—if it’s light yellow or clear, you’re in good shape. Either way, having cold water close by is the first line of defense and should be sipped on even if you’re not thirsty; dehydration can sneak up fast in these temperatures.
Next, and this is important, you’ll also want to have beverages with electrolytes on hand, like Gatorade. Because there is a good chance you’ll be using important electrolytes (which cause some of the symptoms above), you’ll need to replace them. Other good sources of electrolytes include pickle juice and high-water, nutrient-dense foods. Some foods to eat during high heat include:
- Seeds and nuts
- Leafy greens
- Almost any fruit
If you don’t have an air-conditioned home or apartment, you’ll need alternative ideas to stay cool. Visit friends who have it, go to local “cooling stations,” or have a supply of cold towels and ice packs on hand. A cold bath can help too.
Further, be careful about using a fan. Fans will only help cool you if the indoor temperature is cooler than outdoors—which might not be the case for top floor apartments, rooms, or single-floor homes. When indoor temperature exceeds outdoor temperature, fans can make you hotter and increase the risk for temperature-related health complications. Lastly, try to limit outdoor exercise.