Crews: Tips for staying hydrated in the Colorado summer heat (column)
Summer in Colorado is no joke. With the scorching heat combined with our higher altitude, it’s important to stay hydrated while having fun in the sun. According to the National Hydration Council, dehydration is defined as “a lack of water in the body resulting from inadequate intake of fluids or excessive loss through sweating, vomiting or diarrhea.”
Hydration is particularly important for children, as they have higher water requirements in relation to their body weight than adults. However, kids don’t always recognize the early stages of thirst, which can make them particularly vulnerable to becoming dehydrated, especially during times that can drive up their body fluid losses, such as when they are playing sports or during warm weather.
While it can be a challenge to keep up with regular outdoor exercise regimen or playtime in the great outdoors during the hot weather months, it is important to stay active to stay healthy. To maximize open-air fun, here are some safety tips for both adults and children for staying cool when exercising and playing in the summer heat:
• Exercise in the early morning or late evening: The temperature is coolest at this time. Avoid exercising midday because it’s the hottest part of the day.
• Drink up: Do not wait until you are thirsty to start hydrating. Drink two to four glasses of water each hour. If you are exercising for an extended period of time, then drink a sports beverage to replace the salt and minerals you lose through sweat. If you are on diuretics, or a low-salt or fluid-restricted diet, then talk to your doctor first about your specific fluid needs.
• Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing: Consider dressing in clothes made with moisture-wicking fabric.
• Protect yourself from the sun: Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or higher. Try to exercise in the shade. Play tennis on a court shaded by the trees, or take a walk in a wooded park.
• Rest early and often: Take breaks in shady areas.
• Gradually get used to the heat: It takes seven to 10 days for your body to adapt to the change in temperature. Start by exercising for a short time at a low intensity. Save long, hard workouts until you are acclimated to the summer air.
• Stop if you don’t feel well: If you have any of the warning signs of heat-related illness, then stop your workout right away.
• Mind the weather: Do not exercise on the hottest days.
Keep an eye on the heat index. The heat index is a calculation of the temperature and humidity. It measures “how hot it really feels” outside:
• Heat index 80 degrees to 90 degrees: Fatigue during exercise is possible. Heat exhaustion is a possibility even at these temperatures.
• Heat index of 90 degrees to 105 degrees: Heat cramps and heat exhaustion or heat stroke are possible.
• Heat index of 105 or higher: Heat exhaustion is likely, and heat stroke is possible.
Be cautious when the heat index gets above 80 degrees. Consider working out indoors. Walk around a shopping mall or do a workout DVD in your air-conditioned home.
Dehydration is one of those things many people don’t think about and something that can sneak up on you. It’s important to learn the facts on how to stay healthy and happy while enjoying summertime in Colorado.
Sandra Crews is a health strategist with UnitedHealthcare of Colorado.
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