Keeping one’s cool vital during summer

Published 5:43 am Thursday, July 22, 2010

Staff Write

With the sweltering heat this time of year — as temperatures are near or beyond 100-degrees, people need to stay alert when it comes to dehydration, heat exhaustion and informed about ways to keep cool during the summer months.
Dr. Michael Crawford with Washington Urological said although summer is the quintessential time of year for fun in the sun, summer can be a dangerous time if exercising or working outdoors on those sweltering days.
“The summer months are usually the worst months for people who have had kidney stones,” Crawford said. “Because it’s hot outside and people are not drinking enough water.”
Crawford said when a person loses water through sweat, kidney stones may begin to form because that person is not being properly hydrated. There are several ways to combat the heat and the health problems such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke that may come with it and ways to prevent those from happening.
Common sense is the key to avoiding heat-related illnesses, such as staying hydrated to avoid a heat-related disorder, he said.
“This means drinking plenty of water before, during and after exercise or exposure to heat and humidity,” Crawford said. “If you’re sweating heavily, you can drink a sports drink, like Gatorade, to replace sodium levels and other minerals such as electrolytes.”
According to a Webster’s dictionary, dehydration occurs when the body loses too much water through sweating. When the body does not take in enough fluids, the body’s cells absorb fluid from the blood and other body tissues. Muscles begin to get tired, and a person may have cramps or feel faint.
“By the time you’re dehydrated, there’s no longer enough fluid in the body to get blood to the organs,” Crawford said. “And for people who have previously had kidney stones, they must always stay hydrated.”
He added that exercising or working outdoors on a sunny summer day is great for one’s health, but it also can be dangerous if one is not careful, as heat-related illnesses can be fast-acting and deadly.
One heat-related illness is heat exhaustion. It occurs when the body cannot sweat enough to cool itself, and it generally develops while someone is working or exercising in hot weather. Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, headache, dizziness or nausea. If one exercises in the summer heat, either do it in the morning or in the evening when the sun is not so bright and humidity is at its lowest, Crawford suggests.
Gary Davis, a Beaufort County native, relaxed under the shade of a tree on a park bench on the Washington waterfront to stay cool.
Sometimes, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, which requires emergency-medical treatment. Classic heatstroke can develop without exertion when one is exposed to a hot environment and one’s body cannot cool itself effectively. This type of heatstroke may develop over several days.
“If you feel yourself getting warm or lightheaded, it’s best to take a timeout and rest in the shade,” Crawford said.
He also advises to limit one’s outdoor activities because heatstroke can develop in less than one hour.
Crawford said people may also take a dive in a pool to cool off. Just relax and float around and enjoy the summer breezes with an ice-cold beverage to cool the core of the body from the inside out, he said.
“Have a Popsicle,” he said. “They’ll cool you down, and they taste good, too.”
Crawford said another way to keep cool is to sit in a shaded or well-ventilated area.
“If you’re indoors, you should open windows, use a fan or turn on the air conditioning during excessively hot days,” he said. “And wear clothes that are loose-fitting and breathe to cool the body down.”