Tips to stay cool and hydrated during the summer heat
In response to the weather office’s warning of very hot weather for the next few weeks, the start of school athletics programmes and the harvest season being full swing, Western Cape Government Health is reminding people of the following guidelines to help prevent heat stroke and exhaustion:
- Babies, the elderly and people working or exercising in a hot environment are at particular risk for heat stroke/exhaustion.
- People using chronic medication need to drink extra water during heat waves to ensure that their kidneys are not further stressed.
GENERAL PREVENTION (ALL AGES)
- Stay out of the sun if at all possible, if not
- Wear a large hat to protect the head from the sun, use an umbrella to add shade
- Use a small wet towel or cloth under hats or on shoulders to help keep cool
- Stay hydrated – in the current temperatures, staying hydrated is most important – drink as much water as you need;
- Always carry water with you
- Should you use a chronic medication, such as high blood pressure or diabetes medication remember that becoming dehydrated places extra stress on the kidneys, drink ample clean water
- Use the Rehydration Solution if you are thirsty even though you are drinking water:
- Mix the following together in a clean bottle 1l water, 8 teaspoons sugar and ½ a teaspoon of salt
- This is safe for all ages to drink especially for those people who work or exercise outdoors, such as children practising athletics and road or farm workers.
- Ensure that the elderly and infirm have easy access to water
TIPS FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN:
Breastfeed on demand - breast milk is all that babies younger than 6 months require, you need not give the baby water or tea. Only breast milk, as and when baby wants it.
- Breast feeding Mom’s must remember to drink extra water, cool rooibos tea also makes a refreshing and healthy drink.
- Take your baby to the clinic at the first sign of Diarrhoea and/or vomiting
- Keep babies in the shade or indoors
- Wipe baby down with a clean damp cloth – this will help keep them cool
- Do not cover babies in a lot of clothing and blankets; light clothing is sufficient.
- Keep babies and children in the shade
- Avoid sports activities if possible, if sport is essential; ensure that there is a lot of water and re-hydration solution available.
- Children must wear hats and sunblock
- Keep children indoors between 11:00 and 16:00
TIPS FOR THOSE WORKING OUTSIDE
This is for sports people, teachers and/or coaches and employers of builders, gardeners and others required to work outside:
- Keep your head covered, place a wet cloth under your hat to help keep cool
- Make sure that there is lots of cool, clean water to drink
- Take regular, short breaks in the shade
- When taking a break, pour water over your head to help the body cool down
SYMPTOMS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION/STROKE
Heat stroke can be fatal and should be treated as a medical emergency. Heat exhaustion is a less severe condition but can quickly progress to heat stroke if left untreated. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur when the body is unable to lower its temperature to normal levels through the skin or by sweating. Dehydration can cause heat stroke because the body is unable to sweat fast enough to dissipate the heat.
Signs of heat exhaustion include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- A pale pallor, (skin colour)
- Tiredness and weakness
- Muscle cramps and dizziness
If the symptoms are severe or the victim has a heart condition or high blood pressure, seek urgent medical help.
Give the person the Oral Rehydration solution described above. Do not add too much salt – the mixture should taste like tears. Sports drinks or commercial oral rehydration solution are also effective. If the symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour, seek urgent medical attention.
Children under two (2) years are at high risk of dehydration which can lead rapidly to very dangerous conditions. This is even more dangerous if a child has diarrhoea and/or vomiting. Use the sugar-salt-solution to help them not to dry out while you seek medical attention at your nearest clinic or emergency unit.