Drink early and often when out in the sun

Published July 20, 1993|Updated Oct. 9, 2005

Though it's tempting to lock yourself inside an air-conditioned room this time of year, it's not absolutely necessary. You can spend time outdoors _ working, exercising and having fun _ if you just use some common sense.

Stay hydrated: It is physically impossible to drink too much water. Drink often and in large amounts _ before, during and after any strenuous activity outdoors. You also can drink diluted fruit juices and fluid-replacement beverages such as Gatorade. Soft drinks and sugary fruit drinks should be avoided. Coffee and alcohol drinkers need to hit the water jug extra hard to avoid dehydration.

Also, there are some myths that need to be discounted. Drinking water during exercise will not cause cramps, and cold water is actually preferable because it is more easily absorbed by the body. Another thing that you need to force into your awareness: Don't wait until you're thirsty _ drink, drink, drink, day and night, whether you're thirsty or not.

Avoid midday heat: How obvious can you get, huh? Well, do it anyway. From about noon to 6 p.m. maybe you should lock yourself in that air-conditioned room, after all.

Clothing: You've heard this a million times, too, but it remains true. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Wear hats, especially if you're balding.

Exercise: Start out slowly and take your time cooling down afterward. Stick to morning and late-evening hours.

Signs of trouble: Heat exhaustion and its far more dangerous companion, heat stroke, come with a set of warning signs. If you heed them quickly, you can take steps to feel better fast. Indicators of heat exhaustion are: hot and/or cold flashes, clammy skin, disorientation, headaches, loss of physical control and poor coordination.

You should immediately get out of the heat, drink plenty of fluids and fruit juices and elevate your legs. Symptoms should subside.

If the symptoms also are accompanied by dry skin, you may be suffering from heat stroke, in which the body's internal temperature heats up so much that it causes internal damage to the brain, heart and kidneys. This can be life-threatening and requires prompt hospitalization.

_ Source: Dr. John Boyd, administrative director of orthopedic services at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg