We’ve been having some impressive summer weather recently. Nice if you can sit and relax. But what about those of us who work out in it? Or what if you are on expedition? And is it REALLY that important to stay cool?
Our bodies are constantly working hard to maintain our internal temperature at around 37 degrees C. When the outside temperature rises, our bodies have to work extra hard to regulate and compensate for this environmental change.
When your temperature deviates from this optimum, this is when illness sets in. Our body gives us signs that it’s struggling, but don’t leave it that long. Heat illness can lead to nausea, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, fainting – and if left untreated, organ failure and even death. So take care of yourself in the hot weather.
Stay Hydrated –
We can’t emphasise this one enough! Don’t wait until you are thirsty, try and be one step ahead by remaining hydrated rather than waiting for dehydration to creep in.
Take fluids on board regularly through out your day, and be aware that being in the heat means that you do need to drink more than normal. This is then increased again if you are being active in the heat too.
Water is ideal, but adding in juice can help too. If you are in the heat for prolonged periods, especially being active, then adding in electrolytes are a good idea.
Be aware that caffeinated drinks, especially higher levels of caffeine, can in fact act as a diuretic, which will increase your chances of becoming dehydrated.
Avoid Alcohol –
Alcohol will negatively impact your hydration levels, and will affect your ability to recognise when you are overheating. It also increases your chance of heat illness as your body can’t regulate your body temperature as effectively.
Both dehydration and alcohol put pressure on your vital organs – so combining heat and alcohol can unnecessary cause problems.
Eat Smaller Meals –
When it is hot you are less likely to want a large meal. But when on adventures, or working out in the woods it’s important to fuel yourself. So opt for smaller but more regular meals with regular snacks too. Your body has to work harder to regulate your temperature so it’s good to stay well fuelled.
Try and include plenty of fresh fruit and veg where possible as they have a high water content, this will help with your fluid regulation too.
Wear light coloured and loose fitted clothing. Due to the nature of the environment out in the wilderness, on expedition or in the woods, sadly just wearing shorts and flip flops isn’t a great option. Not only do you leave your juicy flesh exposed for a bug banquet, but you’re more likely to get injured too.
Opt for light weight, light coloured, loose fitting clothing. There are many great materials to choose from so opt for the more breathable options.
The same goes for footwear – working with tools, or venturing off the beaten track in flip flops isn’t a great idea but boots in the heat can feel too much. Opt for breathable lightweight socks, with summer boots. These are usually lighter in colour, more breathable materials and more lightweight.
Work In The Shade –
This may seem obvious, but this makes a huge difference. Where there is an option for shade, take it!
Not only will this help to keep you cooler, but will limit your skin’s exposure to the sun. A little sun exposure is good to boost your Vitamin D levels, but too much over time can be detrimental to your health. So it’s best to wear sunscreen, and remember to re-apply.
Work Smarter –
If you have energy sapping tasks to be done then get up early and work in the cool of the early morning. Before the sun’s heat sets in is the best time of the day to get things done…then ideally you can rest during the hotter parts of the day.
Take Regular Breaks –
Slow down and rest more regularly. Your body is working hard to regulate your temperature so it’s likely that your energy will be lower too. So take regular rest breaks.
Cool Down Your Pulse Points –
Pouring water or spraying water over certain areas of your body can help to cool you down, and help to regulate your overall temperature.
Aim for –
- The back of your neck
- Wrists & forearms
- Behind your knees
This is a great way to refresh and stay cool when you still have loads of work to do, or lots of miles to cover, but also great if you have started to overheat and you need to cool down without the risk of cold water shock by plunging into cold water.
A damp towel or lightweight scarf around the back of your neck, not only keeps the back of your neck covered from the sun – a common area of sunburn, especially when leaning over to work – but helps to keep you cool. Also another great tip is to soak your hat, having a wet hat on your head shields your head from the sun and works to keep you cool at the same time.
Remember to look after your health out there. Just like with hypothermia, it is hard to notice the symptoms of heat illness yourself – so avoid it in the first place! Keep an eye on those around you too. But don’t wait for it to happen – prevention is better than cure – so follow these simple steps and stay cool out there, and enjoy your adventures!