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College of Health and Human Sciences

Coping with the heat starts with fluids

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Fluid replacement is key to health any time of the year, but particularly in summer heat and humidity when the body´s cooling system has to work overtime, said Mike Bradshaw, health and safety specialist for Kansas State University Research and Extension.

Simply put, dehydration occurs when the body loses fluids faster than they´re replaced. One normal, common cause for such losses is perspiration, which cools the body.

"You can´t afford to wait to drink until you are thirsty, though. You may already be dehydrated if you rely on thirst," Bradshaw said.

Water is the fluid replacement of choice, as it is easily absorbed. Replacement fluids also may be naturally derived from foods, including fruits and vegetables with a high water content.

Counting on coffee or caffeinated beverages - including carbonated beverages - as primary fluid replacements is not a good idea, though.

Caffeine is naturally dehydrating. So is alcohol, said Bradshaw, who offered the following summer safety tips to reduce the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion further:

  • Adjust work schedules and the timing for outdoor activities to reduce exposure to heat during the hottest part of the day, typically from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • If you must work outside, allow your body to become acclimatized to heat. Gradually increase the time you spend in the heat to allow your body to adjust. Not possible to reduce the time outside? Take frequent breaks indoors or in the shade.
  • Check prescribed and over-the-counter medications´ labeling and instructions to see whether exposure to heat and/or sunlight will have an affect on your body´s ability to stay hydrated. For example, dehydrating medications can include antidepressants, antihistamines, amphetamines, and diuretics for high blood pressure (hypertension) or
    weight loss.
  • Choose loose clothing that will allow skin to breathe. Wear light colors, which reflect the light, rather than dark colors, which absorb it.
  • Wear a hat to shade the neck and face, and put on sunglasses to protect eyes.
  • Wear sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater) to prevent sunburn, which makes it more difficult for the body to cool itself. Sunscreen also can reduce skin damage and the risk of skin cancers.

More information on consumer strategies for personal safety is available at any local or district Extension office or on K-State Research and Extension´s Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu (click on "Health and Nutrition").

K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus in Manhattan.

Story by:
Nancy Peterson
K-State Research and Extension

This article was posted on Tuesday, July 18, 2006, and is filed under College News.