Tips for Surviving the Summer Heat

Canadians don’t deal well with sustained heat and humidity. Sure, the odd day or two of over 30 gives us something to complain about, because we love to complain about the weather. But day after day of +30C with high humidex? That’s something we don’t adapt to very well.  

Many people around the planet, however, do effectively live in and deal with these high temperatures all the time. Here’s what we can borrow from their experience.  

Slow down. It’s often cold in Canada, so rushing from one thing to another in our day is not only possible, but it also helps keep us warm by generating body heat. That’s the last thing you want to do in high heat and humidity environments. Moving slowly decreases the heat you are generating and keeps your core temperatures down. 

Avoid activity in the heat of the day. In the tropics, the most productive times of the day or in the early morning and late after. Minimize activity and movement when possible. The middle of the day is for finding shade and rest. 

Stay hydrated. This isn’t just about water. Many cultures who live in hot climates have traditional beverages that help manage hydration. Coconut water, cold teas, like yerba mate in South America, lime juice, and water. Drinks like these are refreshing and contain electrolytes as well as water.  

What happens when you don’t manage heat well? You run the risk of heatstroke, also known as sunstroke–a type of severe heat illness that results in a body temperature greater than 40.0 °C (104.0 °F).

Symptoms of heatstroke include:  

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing

What to do about it: 

  • Get to a shady or air-conditioned place
  • Cool off with damp sheets and a fan
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • Rehydrate (with NON-sugary beverages)

If you don’t feel better in 30 minutes, it’s off to the doctor with you! You may need IV fluids.  

Two Delicious Ways to Drink More Water

Up to 60% of your body is water—just good old H20. The amount varies depending on location. The brain and heart, for example, are composed of 73% water. The lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, while your muscles and kidneys are 79%. Even your bones are a surprisingly juicy 31%!

It’s no surprise, then, that being dehydrated isn’t good for you. To avoid that, drinking 8 cups of water per day is a good rule of thumb and easy to remember. To adjust for body size, our recommendation is usually to drink one half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water per day–that’s the equivalent of 10 cups. 

Why We Struggle to Drink Water

Of course, knowing how much is only part of the challenge. There are two issues that frequently come up with our patients who are chronically under-hydrated.

The first is that they simply aren’t thirsty. But symptoms can show up differently in different people. For example, you might not be thirsty, but you might still experience any of the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Tired or sleepy
  • Decreased urine output
  • Urine is low volume and more yellowish than normal
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness

In other words, you can be low on hydration, but not experience “thirst”.

The second reason is that many people find water boring, and so they look to flavoured and sugared drinks to make things more interesting. Those are generally bad choices.

Our solution to both these challenges is to make sure you have something delicious and healthy at hand. Here are a couple of our favourite alternatives!

1. Infused Water

Here at the clinic, we love to have infused water around. A few added fruits and herbs can give plain old water a delicious boost! Some of our favourites are: 

  • Lemon, cucumber, and thyme 
  • Strawberry, basil, and lemon
  • Apple and cinnamon sticks 
  • Grapefruit and rosemary 
  • Lavender and Strawberry 
  • Lime and Mint 
  • Watermelon and Mint
  • Orange and blueberry 
  • Raspberry and Lemon 

2. Homemade Herbal Iced Tea

Another delicious way is to make a homemade iced herbal tea. It takes just minutes!

  • Take a herbal tea of your choice.  
  • Put 2 bags in a one-litre mason jar.
  • Pour boiling water over bags to half fill jar.  
  • Steep for 15 mins at least. Remove bags. 
  • Add honey if desired.
  • Fill the jar with ice.

And enjoy!