Surfing the Heatwave: Your Ultimate Guide to Staying Safe and Cool

Feeling the heat? Well, you’re not alone!! With temperatures on the rise and new records unfortunately being set everyday, it’s time to delve deep into the world of heat-related illnesses.

So go grab an icy-cold drink, kick back in the shade, and join us as we explore everything you need to know about staying safe and healthy in the heat. From fun facts to practical tips, we’ve got you covered!

Heat Illness Quiz: Test Your Knowledge!

  1. You’ve been outside in the hot sun running errands for several hours. You’re feeling increasingly thirsty, dizzy, and have a headache. What’s the MOST LIKELY explanation for your symptoms?
    1. Dehydration
    2. Sunburn
    3. Fatigue
    4. Lack of sleep
  2. It’s a scorching summer day, and your elderly parent complains of feeling weak and nauseous. They haven’t been drinking much water and their skin feels hot and dry. What MIGHT your parents be experiencing?
    1. Food poisoning
    2. Heat stroke
    3. The common cold
    4. Heat exhaustion
  3. You’re at the park with your young child on a hot day. They’re unusually quiet and irritable, and their skin feels clammy. What’s a potential cause for these symptoms in hot weather?
    1. Teething pain
    2. Heat cramps
    3. Sun allergy
    4. Feeling tired
  4. You’re on a hike with friends in the hot afternoon. One person suddenly stops, removes their cap, and seems confused. Their skin is flushed and red. What could be happening?
    1. Sunstroke/Heatstroke
    2. Heat rash
    3. Dehydration
    4. Low blood sugar

Answer Key:

  1. (1) Dehydration – This is a common symptom of heat illness caused by fluid loss.
  2. (4) Heat exhaustion – These symptoms are classic signs of heat exhaustion in older adults.
  3. (2) Heat cramps – Irritability, clammy skin, and muscle cramps can be signs of heat cramps in children.
  4. (1) Sunstroke or Heat Stroke – Confusion, flushed skin, and removing headwear are all signs of heatstroke, the most severe form of heat illness.

Disclaimer: This quiz is for general information purposes only. If you suspect someone is experiencing a sudden medical condition, seek medical attention immediately.

So here’s to Understanding the Answers

Heat illness is a broad term that covers a range of conditions when our body gets too hot. It happens when the body’s natural cooling mechanisms, like sweating, cannot keep up with the excessive heat surrounding it. This can happen when you spend too much time in the hot sun or exercise too strenuously in the heat or both. It can even happen if you are sweating it out in an non airconditioned room in the middle of a heatwave.

There are several types of heat illness, ranging from mild to life-threatening. The severity depends on the degree of overheating and how your body responds to it.

The mildest form of heat illness is the heat rash. Characterized by small, itchy red bumps on the skin, it typically occurs due to blocked sweat glands and usually clears up on its own once the body cools down.

Heat cramps are next. A little bit more serious than rashes, these are painful muscle cramps, often in the legs, abdomen, or arms. They occur when the body loses electrolytes (salts) and fluids through sweating.

A little higher up on the seriousness spectrum is heat exhaustion. Symptoms include heavy sweating, cold, pale, and clammy skin, muscle cramps, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, weakness, and fatigue. This is a signal your body’s sending out to take action to cool it down before the overheating takes a more serious turn.

Lastly is the heatstroke. This one’s a full-blown medical emergency. Symptoms include high body temperature (often above 104°F or 40°C), hot, dry, and red skin (may not be sweating), confusion, seizures, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing. If left untreated, heatstroke can lead to organ damage, coma, and even death.

So where does dehydration fit in? Dehydration is the silent partner in crime of heat illness. When you’re not sipping on enough fluids to keep up with all the sweating, you get dehydrated and heat illnesses kick in. Fun Fact: Did you know humans can sweat up to 2 liters an hour? So that’s a lot of fluid to keep up with.

So here’s some practical Food Tips for Staying Safe in the Heat:

  • Prevention is better than cure!! So look out for the first signs of dehydration: headache, dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth or tongue, thirst, less frequent urination, sunken eyes or cheeks, no tears when crying, and in infants, a sunken soft spot on the top of the skull.
  • Drink up! It’s super important to stay hydrated, especially with water and electrolyte rich fluids. Keep the electrolytes in balance when drinking up and don’t just guzzle plain water all the time. Mix up your hydration with coconut water, salted buttermilk, ORS liquids and diluted fresh fruit juices with a pinch of salt.
  • Keep a particular check on kids and teens. They tend to be at a greater risk for heat-related illnesses like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke because their bodies are still figuring out the way to regulate temperature. And more often than not, they’re so busy having fun they forget to drink enough water!!
  • Skip the alcohol and caffeinated drinks—they’re sneaky dehydrators!
  • When the heat’s on, skipping meals might seem tempting, but it’s best to avoid it. Instead, opt for a light, non-spicy meal packed with carbs and protein to maintain your energy levels.
  • Opt for light, easy meals that don’t require firing up the stove. Let’s not crank up the heat any more than we have to! Cool curd rice, solkadhi, cucumber tambuli, chutney or boiled egg sandwiches and cold raita is the way to go.
  • Eating your water by way of in season fruits like watermelon, muskmelon, oranges is another great way to keep your hydrated and your energy level high.
  • And hey, let’s look out for the ones in their golden years. Chronic medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, respiratory issues or certain medications they take may affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
  • If you’re older and have some health issues, it’s a good idea to have a chat with a nutritionist about any diet or fluid restrictions you might have. They’ll help you figure out the best plan for staying cool and hydrated during the heat.

So with the sun beating down relentlessly, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the heat. But fear not!! We have equipped you with the knowledge and tools to keep you refreshed, composed, and navigate rising temperatures with cool confidence. So start implementing these tips today and stay safe this summer!!

Written by:

Dr. Sripriya Venkiteswaran, PhD Nutritional Sciences

Head of Content, Cuddles Institute of Clinical Nutrition

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