Last summer, newcomers thought that maybe the rumors about Texas summers were exaggerated. But now, Texas is showing its true summer colors… triple-digit heat multiple days in a row, almost no rain, but still able to throw out some humidity in the mornings. You’re not in the Pacific Northwest anymore!
Whether or not you’re new to the intensity of a Texas summer, you should absolutely not think you’re immune: dehydration and heat exhaustion can creep up on you without you even noticing. Suddenly, you’re down. Here’s how to avoid that outcome.
Hydration: Normally you should be drinking 8-10 glasses of water per day, every day. That’s 64-80 oz, or about one giant 2.2 liter bottle, the kind that Coke comes in… but don’t drink the Coke! Caffeine is a diuretic. You want to hydrate, not flush.
In extreme temperatures, it’s generally not sufficient to just sip mindlessly. Get a calibrated water jug and monitor how much you’re actually drinking every day.
If you’re exercising in the heat, clearly you need more water than normal to replenish your fluids. It’s best to drink a few extra glasses of water several hours before exercise, not during. During exercise, simply drink according to your thirst. With sufficient fluids onboard, you should be able to avoid “crashing” in the heat.
The acid test for hydration is the color of your urine. Don’t be squeamish; monitor your output. If it’s almost clear or light yellow, fine. If it’s dark yellow or amber, you are clearly under-hydrated. Drink up! Other signs of dehydration are fatigue, light-headedness, headache, heart palpitations and low blood pressure.
The other side of hydration is electrolytes. Sweating causes you to lose a lot of your natural salts and minerals. An imbalance in your optimal levels of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium can cause all sorts of alarming symptoms, like muscle cramps, nausea, headache and vertigo. That’s why athletes drink electrolyte solutions like Gatorade or Powerade, to replace critical minerals that have been sweated out.
If you prefer not to support Pepsi (Gatorade) or Coke (Powerade), make your own rehydration drink.
3 cups coconut water
1 cup apple juice
1 cup ice
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tablespoon honey
Garnish with limes or lemons. Put the leftover in a Mason jar in the fridge for later.
You can also buy low-sugar rehydrating powders, such as NUUN, Emergen-C Hydration+, or FLUID products. Just mix with green tea or water for a great rehydration drink. These are especially recommended for people doing heavy exercise or outdoor work during the summer.
Everyone raised in the South knows to beware when you have goosebumps or chills in hot weather, or when you stop sweating. Those are the signs that you must quickly get to a cooler place, stop all activity, and drink water or rehydration drinks.
Other signs of heat exhaustion are “hitting the wall,” losing all energy, low blood pressure, and dizziness when you get up from sitting.
If you take action immediately (rest, cool, rehydrate) you should be back to normal in a short time, half an hour or less.
The most serious sort of overheating condition usually requires medical treatment, but if you’re monitoring yourself, it should not reach this point. If you have stopped sweating and your skin is hot and flushed, your mental state is altered, pulse is racing, head is throbbing, breathing is rapid and shallow, then you need medical attention immediately. Don’t get to this point!
Monitor your fluid intake (ounces)
Monitor your urine output (color)
Replace electrolytes from sweating
Rest, cool down and rehydrate at the first symptom
It all sounds a little scary, and people have died from heat-related symptoms, but millions of Texans have survived these ridiculous summers for a long time. You’re only in danger if you’re not paying attention to your own body and its signs. Be wise and attentive when the temperatures are extreme!