Summer may be coming to an end, but our risk for heat-related illness is still very real. I learned that firsthand a few weeks ago.
The weather had been hot, but it was not a particularly strenuous day for me. I remember drinking fluids that day, though apparently not enough. That evening while sitting on the porch, I suddenly felt tired, dizzy and confused.
“I’m not feeling well” was the last thing I remember before I passed out. At our local emergency room, the diagnosis was dehydration. After an hour of IV fluids and electrolytes, I felt much better.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydration occurs when we use or lose more fluid than we take in. Deprived of adequate fluids, the body is unable to perform its normal functions, like temperature regulation and blood pressure control. Dehydration is especially dangerous for young children and older adults.
Heatstroke is considered the most serious of heat- related illnesses, say the experts at Mayo. It occurs when the body temperature rises to 104 degrees, usually because of prolonged physical exertion in a hot environment. Other symptoms: nausea and vomiting, rapid breathing and heartbeat, and headache.
Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention to avoid damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles.
How do we avoid these conditions?
Don’t get so busy that you forget to drink fluids throughout the day. According to the National Academy of Medicine, women generally need nine (8-ounce) servings; men, 13 (8-ounce) servings.
Beverages that count toward your fluid requirements include water, coffee, tea, fruit juice, milk and more. The diuretic effect of caffeine does not offset the fluid we get from these beverages, say experts.
Be very careful about alcohol, which can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. If you do have that cold beer, balance it out with the same amount of water.
If exercising vigorously for more than an hour, consider beverages that contain electrolytes.
Barbara Quinn-Intermill is a registered dietitian and the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015).