If you follow me on Twitter (if you don’t why not?) you likely already know that I chose the hottest possible time to build a fence in my backyard. This process requires the the use of a post hole digger (essentially long salad tongs, made from 2 trenching shovels) which is very taxing in rooty soil and you have to spend long periods of time in the sun, and currently, in the heat using power tools. This maybe the absolute best scenario for heat exhaustion, so I thought I would cover the dangers.
Before you can prevent it though, it helps to know what it is… There are two types of heat exhaustion:
- Water depletion: Signs include excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and even loss of consciousness.
- Salt depletion: Signs include nausea and vomiting, frequent muscle cramps, and dizziness.
Since most Americans walk around in a state of dehydration anyway (and consume too much sodium) I believe water depletion is the most common, however you do lose a lot of salt due to sweating. Additionally, actually consuming too much water can cause you to dilute the salt in your body and bring on heat exhaustion or heat stroke.So what can we do?
1) Drink water before you get thirsty. If you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. The American Medical Athletic Association recommends that adults drink 17-24 oz of fluid before exercise (especially in the heat), further more they recommend drinking 7 to 10 oz every 15 minutes during the activity and another 24oz for every pound you lose during the workout. (For me today that would be 3.4 gallons… At the time I thought I did well to drink just over 2.5 gallons).
2) Don’t drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages. Alcohol and caffeine are both mild diuretics (they make you pee) we are trying to add water to the body, so this is counter productive.
3) Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Light colors reflect light (and its energy) and can help you stay cooler. Loosing fitting clothing can help promote air circulation cooling your body via convection.
4) One that should be familiar to WTBGU! readers… Pay attention to your surroundings. Concrete and asphalt can create “heat islands” and you should avoid them when possible. Take advantage of shade when possible. If you can avoid it, just don’t exert yourself when conditions are right for heat exhaustion (especially if you are older or ill).
One of the best risk indicators of heat exhaustion is the Heat Index and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed a chart that help you understand the risks associated with various heat index levels.
|27–32°C||80–90°F||Caution — fatigue is possible with prolonged exposure and activity. Continuing activity could result in heat cramps|
|32–41°C||90–105°F||Extreme caution — heat cramps and heat exhaustion are possible. Continuing activity could result in heat stroke|
|41–54°C||105–130°F||Danger — heat cramps and heat exhaustion are likely; heat stroke is probable with continued activity|
|over 54°C||over 130°F||Extreme danger — heat stroke is imminent|
Please remember that the heat index values were devised for shady, light wind conditions, so exposure to full sunshine can increase heat index values by up to 15°F. also, strong winds, particularly with very hot, dry air, can be extremely hazardous. (This always seems to be the conditions of training classes!)
- If you or someone in your care begins to show signs of Heat Exhaustion…
- Get them out of sun, immediately.
- Once inside, the person should lay down and loosen his or her clothing.
- Cool them by using cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air-conditioned room.
- Offer them sips of water.
If nausea occurs, stop giving them water as it is a sign that they may be experiencing salt depletion and giving them more water could make things worse. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention for Heat Stroke.
Hopefully, understanding the ways to prevent heat exhaustion will be enough and neither you nor I will need to treat anyone during this heat wave.
Tomorrow, I will try to do better in drinking more liquid and I will wear a hat to protect my scalp (seems I still haven’t accepted that I’m thinning); and when the fence is complete I will post a picture on Twitter so make sure you are following me!