Coping in Extreme Heat

Q: Hi Marta, what can we do in extreme heat?  Here, especially older people suffer of headaches, high blood pressure, but even children suffer.

A: How to manage to rehydrate in the extreme heat?

A prolonged exposure to hot temperatures and restricted fluid intake may cause health complications. Hyperthermia is the umbrella name given to heat-related illnesses. The most common are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

What happens is failure of temperature regulation mechanisms of the body. When we overheat the body temperature may reach dangerous levels. It is very individual as the heat tolerance is different for every person. However, diagnosis of any heat exhaustion or heat stroke requires immediate medical attention. And for this there is no alternative.

However, one may do a lot to prevent and to be aware of the situation. With the temperature climbing towards 40°C (or 104°F) people may be extremely thirsty, drinking lots of water, but symptoms of mental confusion, headaches, rapid pulse, muscle cramping, and even faintness are rather common. There can be too much or often very little perspiration.

Heat 1

Avoid dehydration

When dehydrated, the human body does not function at its best and may be at risk for many ailments.  In spite of warning most people don’t think they need to worry about dehydration. But there are warning signs. These, regardless the temperature and climate should inspire you to go get a glass of water: fatigue and sudden loss of energy, indigestion, HBP, constipation, diarrhoea, skin rashes, urinary problems and acid-alkaline imbalance.

The first reaction of the body to extreme heat is perspiration. It is the defence mechanism in order to control body temperature by releasing heat into the environment. The sweat comes from the extracellular (outside the cells) fluid.  This contains the major electrolytes sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and also calcium, iron, copper, zinc, amino acids, sulfates and phosphates, etc.

Intuitively we drink more when we are in extreme heat but flushing plain water through the body over a long period of time or habitually can be ineffective. An extreme dilution may also cause imbalance of electrolytes in the body, since they are similar to sweating pushing them  out of the body.  Therefore keeping an optimal level of water and electrolytes is the ideal case. It is not easy to achieve this but there are some recommendations.

What are the electrolytes?  They are the elements or rather compounds which dissociate into ions when dissolved in water. They have ability to conduct an electrical current, and in the human body they are essential for optimal function of our cells and function of the organs.

When the organs do not work normally, they send us messages, and those  are which we may receive: flushed face, dry mouth, dry tongue, dry and hot skin, extreme thirst or unable to drink with thick saliva, urine or reduced or turning dark yellow, weakness, dizziness, faintness,  cramping in the arms and legs,  headaches, sleepiness in the daytime, etc. So these are things out usual.

Keep the electrolytes in balance

Heat stress and dehydration deplete the body of electrolytes. Too much salt can damage the temperature regulation and cause fatigue, high blood pressure, stomach distress, impaired heart function, and mental confusion. But loss of salt is also dangerous. There are many sports drinks containing electrolytes but the best way to rehydrate, what is  to replace body fluid is by natural food and drinks. In general, it is said plain water doesn’t contain electrolytes.  Drinking tap water is better than not drinking any water, and a good tap or filtered water can be just very good.  So, when you shop for mineral water check for sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride content, useful in 100s of milligrams.

The best source of sodium and chloride is sea salt which naturally contains also sulphates, magnesium, calcium and potassium. It is not only ideal to add to soups and cooked meal, but also to the salads and some beverages in small quantity. You can also ’eat food’ as many fruits and vegetables have very high water content: cucumber, carrot, melons, strawberries, grapefruit, etc. And these will contain above 90% of water per volume. Well it is not by chance that water melon is called water melon. And other foods are good to replenish the minerals like avocados, leaf vegetables, bananas, milk, plain live natural yoghurt, kefir and other fermented beverages.  Citrus fruit is very good and it has a cooling effect on the body. You may drink lemonade or also tomato juice can help maintain the potassium levels, while tomato naturally contains salt – sodium chloride. Coconut water also naturally contains so many electrolytes.

Preventions is vital, because once troubles start they may have a domino effect. Avoid physical stress like exercising, when working make regular breaks, breath properly,  wearing light and loose clothing, furthermore drink water and not to wait until you are thirsty, you may eat lightly salted foods preferably with sea or pink salt. Avoid direct sunlight, and alcoholic or other dehydrating beverages.  Eat easy to digest plant foods and bone or chicken broth which contains a balanced  amount of minerals and other nutrients for optimal rehydration and digestion.


You can stay cool during the heat also with homeopathy

Since the rehydration is to be done by water and foods, I just mention that the there are remedies to support people with heat exhaustion and sun stroke.  Belladonna is the remedy which should be in your home homeopathy kit. People who need it, may show symptoms like cold body and hot head, red face, dilated pupils, fixed or staring eyes,  trembling of the limbs, bending the head backwards, heavy sleep. However, people may show  some differences.

In case of sudden onset of heat in the whole body (not only head as in Belladonna) with lots of anxiety and restlessness it is good to take Aconite.

And finally…

Keep your water bottle full, stick your feet in a bowl of lukewarm water when possible, put your feet up in the evening, eat salads, smoothies, and if your stomach is heavy take a black tea with some sugar and a pinch of salt. This can be found in every kitchen and even in every restaurant if you are on the road. Children just know very well how to play in a paddling pool. Well, and the sea side has it all…

Babies and young children, just like adults, need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. If children are feed on milk, try also cooled boiled water. Before bedtime a shower or a bath are often helpful. When they eat solid, just do the same as above.

The above mentioned remedies may help to ease the symptoms but seek medical advice whenever possible. Hope you will be inspired. Once you are aware of the above you may find solutions which are optimal in your climate and local environment.

Yours, Marta


(illustration is from Google Images)

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