Hot weather is wonderful but sometimes it can be just too hot for comfort and even too hot for health. So in the current heatwave, here are a few tips to avoiding any visits to the GP or A&E.
The big one is Dehydration – with busy days and the wrong beverage choice our bodies can loses more fluid than we take in. Water makes up over two-thirds of a normal healthily functioning human body, it is intrinsic on a cellular level to all organs and their functions but when the natural water balance of the body is reduced it also disrupts the delicate balance of electrolyte salts (especially sodium and potassium) and blood sugars (glucose), which further disrupts functions including the capacity to think clear or remember to reach for the water over a fizzy drink to quench thirst. Isotonic drinks promise to rehydrate rapidly- they are engineered to quickly replace the fluids which are lost by exertion and perspiration. They beat water by having a supply of carbohydrates/sugars to replenish energy. The trick is in the salt – as sodium is the electrolyte most readily lost in perspiration and also the salt makes the fluid more Isosmotic meaning that it brings the drink closer to the same concentration of solutes as the blood and so more readily absorbed into the bloodstream- perfect to offset the physiological reactions to dehydration. But they don’t have to be store bought. I prefer mine to be homemade.
Juicy versions – in a jug mix and stir the following
• 500ml fruit juice (whatever you have handy)
• 500ml still water
• A pinch of salt
• A pinch of sugar
• Ice – optional
Squish Squash version- in a jug mix and stir the following
• 200ml concentrate fruit squash (often high in glucose)
• 800ml still water
• A squeeze of some fresh lime, lemon or orange
• A pinch of salt
• Ice optional
The discomfort of heat and additional perspiration is an irritation in itself but it can manifest into a Heat rash or what we call prickly heat – a red or pinkish rash occurring on areas of skin beneath clothing. It generally develops on hot days when the sweat ducts become blocked and so swell and react in rash form. The rash is discomforting and often itchy or prickly. Quickly remedied by removing clothing and allowing the skin to air-dry. Not always appropriate at work but two home remedies can fit into a locker.
Prickly heat dusting powder – in a lidded container, mix equal parts baking soda & cornstarch or talcum powder, apply as a talc to absorb the skin moisture that is causing the heat rash and also to balance the body’s natural pH which goes a long way to assuage further reactions.
Heat rash can go as quick as it came or take several days to resolve. For more obstinate heat rashes a twice daily spritz of diluted vinegar acts as skin friendly NSAID. Vinegar (acidic) and baking soda (alkaline) cancel each other out so don’t try and combine all treatments in one go.
Prickly heat vinegar spritz- Simply dilute 50/50 some vinegar and water and decant into a bottle sprayer. Spritz the area twice daily. Some people experience a slight sting upon contact but it soon dissipates and takes the itch with it. If you like you can add some foliage of rosemary or lavender – both are anti-inflammatory and impart some cooling properties and it smells a lot less like you’ve been eating chips under your desk. The vinegar smell doesn’t really linger long. You can add essential oil drops to make it extra fragrant.
In these temperatures some people can develop Heat Cramps – muscular pains, occasionally spasms, triggered by heavy exertion and the steady loss of water and salt through excessive perspiration or just the stress of the body trying to combat elevated temperatures and a work schedule. Heat cramps can take place in the abdominal muscles but most often occur in the legs or arms. They can arise as a minor tremor or just happen as a full on event. It is an indication that the day is too hot to be working in and that you have been neglecting your own hydration – coconut water has all five essential electrolytes and is replenishing to muscle function too.
Beat the cramp smoothie
• 500ml unsweetened fruit juice of your choice (or whatever is in the fridge)
• 250ml coconut water
• Two pieces of whole fruit (fiber is good) – apple, orange, banana Or 1 cup of garden fruits/ berries.
• 1 t-spoon Salt
• Some crushed ice cubes (optional but saves time cooling in fridge)
Method: Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz. Decant into a chilled glass. Sit back, relax and sip away.
Moving up the serious scale, Heat Exhaustion is a form of shock. It manifests as heavy sweating or clammy skin with body/core temperature near normal but the feeling of not quite right. Pupils may dilate, headache and nausea may arise leading to dizziness and potentially vomiting. It is sit by the fan and open the windows time. Sip cool drinks to drop core temp. If Heat exhaustion occurs because the core temperature rises above the normal 37°C (98.6°F) towards 38-39°C (100-102°F) or higher , when the person is confused or feeling out if it then without treatment or abatement upon first aid (fan, damp cloths, drinks), heat exhaustion could easily develop into heatstroke.
Heatstroke is a much more serious condition were the body can no longer sweat or cool itself and so keeps on overheating. With heatstroke core temperature can elevate above 40°C (104°F) at which point the cells inside the body start to break down and internal organs can commence to shut down. The symptoms of heatstroke can include a mixture of the following-, rapid heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, feeling dizzy, mental confusion, headache, nausea, cessation of sweating, pinned pupils, fainting or loss of consciousness. This is GP or A& time.
If you happen to be out a lot this summer or are taking your hols in high temps and strong sun then the old reliable – Sunburn – may be the prime problem on your radar. In severe cases sunburn may be considered as second-degree burn. Sunburn in general can cause electrolyte imbalances – including dehydration – and trigger neurological stress that can result in fever, chills, fainting and even circulatory shock. So apart from sunblock and after sun, drink water and isotonic drinks. Fan areas of hot skin. A cool to lukewarm shower or bath can ease side-effects but do not cool too rapidly. Leave blisters intact – If they burst on their own then apply an antibacterial wash or ointment. The main treatment emphasis is to provide relief to the discomfort of the burn – generally with analgesics or ‘after sun’ skin moisturisers.
Raiding the fridge might just do the trick – The dairy fats in milk and yogurts are remedial to UV radiation damage and cooling too – topically applied. Or you could try a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of apple cider vinegar to cool, de-inflame, disinfect and promote faster recovery. Retire to the shad for these treatments. Other items in the kitchen also help. Eating tomatoes, strawberries and water melon is a great way to get lycopene into your system, lycopene stops those fruits from blistering in the hot sun and in humans it increases melanin in our skin – that’s an spf pigment that helps us tan not burn. Continue to use your fact 50 or more but think at lunch and dinner what might get you bronze over lobster. If you do get caught out the following treatments are useful.
Quick fix after sun soother – Baking soda helps to balance your skins pH and speed recovery/healing. Black tea has the tannins to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Natural yogurt is a cooling agent but also like baking soda works to sort the pH of skin and trigger faster healing with natural enzymes that speed sunburn recovery. Method: in a cup, moisten two table spoons of a black or green tea (or 2 open teabags) with two-three tablespoons of boiling water. Let rest for 1 minute add 2 tablespoons of baking soda and then stir in a dollop of natural yoghurt stir well and apply to hot skin- store in fridge for up to three days and apply often to cool and remedy.
Quick fix after-sun peel-heal gel – The sap of a leaf or Aloe vera mixed with a tablespoon or two of vinegar can slow or prevent peeling and speed a recovery with the bonus of cooling sensation – but to boost the properties you can grate in a few slices of cucumber or some raw potato flesh (both hydrating and anti-inflammatory) and blitz in a blender with 20 drops of Lavender essential oil – cooling but can also peel preventing.