Over the past week, temperatures have regularly climbed into the triple digits, sending many local folks in search of cooling waters.
But visit a local pool, and you’re likely to see adults basking on the deck, high and dry, sipping on an “adult beverage,” while youngsters spill off diving boards with their bellies full of caffeine and sugar.
Despite the plethora of public and private pools open in the area, the combination of heat, humidity, and hubris already make for a dangerous combination. The misconception that merely positioning oneself within splashing distance precludes heat-related ailments can send the danger level soaring higher than the noonday sun.
“There is nothing like hopping into the nice cool water on a super hot day, said Sydney Garrison in the EzineArticles.com feature, Avoiding Dehydration While Swimming. “There are dangers however …
“While dehydration is a danger during any sport of physical exertion, it becomes more so during swimming,” Garrison wrote. “When you are in the water swimming, you do not realize that you are still sweating and thus losing fluid. Secondly, because you are surrounded by water, your brain is tricked into thinking that you have all the fluid you need.”
Swimming is no cure-all.
Experts say the best poolside beverage on hot days by the pool is more of the same: water.
“Dehydration by as little as 2 percent to 3 percent can interfere with the body’s thermo-regulatory mechanisms,” adult and pediatric sports medicine specialist Cynthia LaBella wrote for the Center for Athletic Medicine website ( www.athleticmed.com
). “Athletic performance can be compromised by as little as 1 percent to 2 percent dehydration.”
If there’s a message here for athletes or for those outside, it’s to drink water—from a fountain, from a tap, or right from the hose.
According to the American Red Cross and most health websites, the risk of dehydration due to physical activity in the heat can be greatly reduced with about 2.5 cups of fluid two hours before beginning activity and about two cups 10-15 minutes right before exertion; during exercise, drink up to one cup every 15 minutes. After exercise, drink until you have returned to your normal weight (16 oz. of fluid for every pound lost).
Beer companies would no-doubt love to promote the notion that a bottle of suds after a softball game would cure all ills. Rather, we are warned against giving liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can cause further dehydration, making conditions worse.
Drink water or sports drinks with less than 10 percent sugar content. Do not drink caffeinated beverages like soda, iced tea, coffee, etc., and don’t consume salt tablets, diuretics, or alcohol.
According to Healthline.com and the American Red Cross, heat-related illnesses fall generally into the following three basic classifications, noted as follows along with recommended actions:
Heat Cramps: If cramping is in multiple muscles, seek medical attention. Place victim at rest in a cool environment, provide a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes (with a teaspoon of salt per quart), or a commercial sports drink (e.g. Gatorade). Usually, rest and liquids bring about recovery, but victims should be carefully monitored for signs of worsening conditions. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish fluids.
Heat Exhaustion: The victim is extremely sweaty, has cold or clammy skin, a mildly elevated temperature, pale color, dizziness, weak or rapid pulse, shallow breathing, nausea, headache, or unconsciousness. What To Do: Stop all physical activity and move the victim immediately to a cool place out of the sun, preferably a cool, air-conditioned location. Hydrate and lay down with feet slightly elevated. Loosen clothing, and supply cold (but not iced), slightly-salty water or a commercial sports drink, provided in half-glass increments every 15 minutes. Watch carefully for changes in the victim’s condition. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
Heat Stroke: A life-threatening condition marked by a hot body with a core temperature as high as 104 degrees, red or flushed skin color, rapid or strong pulse, difficulty breathing, mental status changes. What to Do: Simply moving the individual experiencing heat stroke to a cooler place is not enough to reverse the overheating. Emergency medical assistance should be called immediately. While waiting for help to arrive, take quick action to lower body temperature. Loosen clothing and allow air to circulate around the body. Immerse the victim in a cool bath or wrap the victim in wet towels or clothing, and place ice packs in areas with the greatest blood supply. These areas include the neck, underarm and knees, and in the groin. If the victim refuses water, is vomiting, or if there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give them anything to eat or drink. After severe heat stroke, hospitalization may be necessary and bed rest is recommended for several days.
Children are not immune from heat-related illnesses. And the elderly are most at risk.
“Exposure to excessive heat and humidity poses special problems for young athletes,” LaBella wrote. “Children produce more internal heat. They also have a higher surface-area to body weight ratio, which means they absorb more heat from the environment, and their sweating capacity is less.
“The transition to adult heat regulation does not begin until after puberty. Children also lack the experience and judgment to perceive the early warning signs of heat illness.”
Parents need to be especially alert to dehydration and the development of problems in infants who can’t speak up and ask for something to drink.
“The elderly can also be more susceptible to the heat due to the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases,” LaBella added, “or the intake of like diuretic medicines common for controlling blood pressure.”
With a fluid flow of information through the internet—both valid and erroneous—and our tendency to self-educate and self-medicate, notable misconceptions tend to arise. Information grows obsolete or even dangerously misleading from one day to the next, and some information arises from questionable sources.
Gone, for example, are the days of popping salt tablets that trainers tossed like confetti at athletes just a couple of decades ago. The Red Cross now warns against taking salt tablets, because such a high concentration of salt may actually worsen the condition.
Perhaps the most dangerous notion, however, is that the afore-mentioned classifications heat-related disorders progress like clockwork in a worsening scenario. While the classes of heat-related illnesses are often listed in worsening order, they sometimes progress out of order and according to no predictable schedule, necessitating all the more diligence by observers and all the more caution by potential victims.