Last week I let myself get dehydrated - didn't really notice until I developed what I've always called a "heat headache" - miraculously it went away after I guzzled a bunch of water.
Yesterday and Today I was mowing the lawn in 30C heat in the morning. (It was before 10AM today) Yesterday I wore my usual 'big hat' - made of straw. I felt hot and sweaty by the time I was done.
Today, I used a wet headkerchief. I was a little hot, but barely felt sweaty at all. I was thirsty though. I need to drink more water!
General protection from the sun's direct rays can also be addressed: sunscreen and sunglasses to protect exposed skin and eyes, and hats as was mentioned, all go a fair way as preventative measures. I think that frequent breaks from the heat (getting to shade or even air conditioning), and constant hydration are probably the best ways to avoid getting too hot.
Importantly I think we should get more in touch with listening to our bodies. It will tell you when you've had too much. Often we push past these natural reminders and that can be when issues begin.
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
posted 3 years ago
I have a few strategies:
Staying out of the sun from about 11 AM to 3 PM. I've adopted that as siesta time. That way I feel well enough in the morning to get up at 5 AM, and start work before the sun comes up. In really hot weather, I don't go back to work until just before sunset.
Covering up. Long sleeved shirt. Long pants. Long hair. Beard. Hat.
Not standing around in the sun for no reason, or just to talk to someone. If I'm chatting, I'm in the shade.
Staying hydrated... My body sign that I'm very dehydrated is that I start to get twitches of incipient charlie horses in my legs, fingers, feet, toes, etc. When I feel one of those, work comes to a screeching halt, and nothing else is done until I've drank 32 ounces of water... One day I got so bad that work couldn't resume until I'd finished 80 ounces...
Wet things dangled around my neck have never worked for me. I feel stiff.
Something I've found helps (which no one else seems to try) is to prefreeze a bottle of water and then carry that in the front pocket of my pants. As it defrost through the day having it in the pocket lets your body enjoy the cooling effect of the ice, and the water becomes available for drinking.
Something else to remember is that you need more than just water if you're sweating a lot. Occasionally drink something to replace your electrolytes also. In my experience, pickle juice and real lemonade (lightly sweetened) work about equally well.
One huge thing for people who aren't used to heat, if you're not sweating like a pig while you work in the heat, you're already dangerously dehydrated. Often your body doesn't signal you need water anywhere close to as soon as it should.
Oh yeah, and to add to Joseph's advice about long sleeves, ect. Light colored, loose fitting, and breathable fabric makes a huge difference. I have a long sleeved white t-shirt that is my designated lawn mowing outfit. With it I'm hot and sweaty when I finish. Without it I'm staggeringly overheated and exhausted after the same amount of work.
Like Cassie I have often relied on frozen water to the crotch.
When I ran a forklift on an open dock,I set a bag of ice directly on my lap.
Since I work standing up now, I bring a cooler of ice and water.
Every time I even think of drinking, I stop and do so. Sure it takes time, but not as much as heatstroke will.
I also keep a terrycloth rag and pour some ice water over my head and neck. The cloth wipes my facee and glasses , then , back to work.
I try not to be wet because in our humidity evaporative cooling works poorly at best.
I am experimenting with hats,finding a good straw hat is difficult around here.
Maybe I will build my own. A foil faced wide brimmed hat, with breathable lining and the support head band from a hard hat...
I suffered heat stroke in my 20's and it seems that I am more prone to overheating since then. So I wear long sleeves, light colored, cotton clothing. I have several straw hats too. I have several cooling things that I bought at Lowes. They are cloth tubes filled with a little of that stuff that they put in baby diapers, small beads that absorb water. These stay wet and cool for a long time here in the west. You can make your own but it doesn't take many of those beads to be too many! I also have a thing I found in a sports store that is basically a type of chamois, like what you use on a car, it holds water well and when wrapped around my neck, keeps me cool. I will also take the hose or a sponge full of water and completely wet my shoulders, arms, underarms back and hair so that I have this constant evaporative cooling effect all around my upper body. When it dries I stop to take a drink and recover my clothes with water.
I let myself get dehydrated earlier this week. Not fun at all. Third time it has happened to me so at least now I understand my body a bit better and will try not to let it happen again. In my case, I am now going to assume I need water before I even go out to work. I down water before I go outside. I realize each time I go out thinking I won't be out there long, I always stay out longer than I expect so I need to remember to take water with me. If I have to think about walking back across the property and up the slope to get water, I don't do it often enough or, evidently, soon enough. Time in the shade and covering up helps me too. I also need to remember that I need to listen to MY body and not watch what someone else is doing. I was working alongside the guy driving the Bobcat this week and I kept stopping to drink water (just not often enough) and he did not. But his body is different than mine so I shouldn't think that just because he is okay, that I am okay.
I get sleepy and nauseous when the heat hits me bad. I eat a banana while I rehydrate and it helps but it take a few hours.
My goal? To create a wildlife habitat on our surburban (almost rural) property using mostly California native plants and inspire others to do the same.
Also to learn how to grow some edibles - more than the herbs I have grown before.
I soak it in a sink before heading out to work in the sun. Chug water, then keep dumping water over my head every time I drink, which I do at least 2x as often as feels necessary.
Doing that I've been able to work in midday august sun, high 40s, with no ill effects. Water consumption was 2-3+L per hour, half through me and half to recharge hat every time I take a drink.
Without doing the above, heat exhaustion can hit very fast, and for me tends to trigger migraines to boot, which can cause a truly miserable night and impair my functionality to a degree for a couple days to avoid retriggering them.
I am very careful about hydration, and at least for me find that drinking only when thirsty is entirely inadequate. I carry water with me, always. If I'm doing something where the average person would carry water, I carry extra water; 2-3x what everyone else brings to aikido or on a hike. I've found the extra water comes in handy more often than most of the other stuff I carry(knife, flashlight, first-aid, etc).
I find that other folks are often grateful for a suggestion that they pause for a drink. Lots of us forget, and just because they aren't doing it doesn't mean they shouldn't be.
Of course the very best heat illness prevention method is as Joeseph describes, applying common sense to when you work so that you're doing the heavy stuff in the cool hours, and safely in the shade for the mid-afternoon scorching hours.
One thing I've noticed with me is that I can't really tell that the temp has gone from what feels like a really warm day to too hot. I've gotten overheated twice thinking, "Well, this doesn't feel any hotter than usual, so my usual procedure ought to work." It doesn't. And maybe that's why when someone gets heatstroke they are surprised. We aren't stupid, we'd stop if it actually felt burning hot. I'm not sure what temperature we're waiting for before we'd take a break, but I know my brain never gets there.
My warning these last two times has been a slight feeling of nausea, although I am sweating and it's hot, so I know I should lay off anyway. Someone else here mentioned a heat headache. So our bodies react differently. Drinking water doesn't change this enough for me. I have to get where my core cools down, and holding still often feels like it's even hotter. I want air passing over my sweating skin, so I try to keep moving, which is also a mistake. So I get a fan going in to shade with a wet T shirt on. Although it really shouldn't come to that, I should know better.
So it does seem most prudent to stay out of the sun in the hottest hours. Don't Italy and Spain already have the right idea about this?? Siesta! Although, now I have a shade garden, and work in it during the hot times of the day.
Athletes wear a wet towel over their heads that creates evaporative cooling. But unless we are getting paid millions to be out in the sun being active, we should probably avoid it.
one thing I learned is that sunlight synthesizes vitamin d and it does so via cholesterol. Not sure if that is the best way to explain it but basically locking yourself indoors (I used to do a lot of factory work and feel much better now that I get regular sunlight working from home)or buying into any of the low cholesterol dieting ideas (phony food like egg beaters lowfat skim milk and margarine) are good ways to get chronically ill. Not saying work your butt off in the hottest hours of the day for no reason without any clothing but regular direct sun/fresh air and real whole foods (wapf style diet) have done amazing things for my wellness. Also coconut oil can be a good alternative to the chemical sunscreens, maybe not as "protective" as sunscreen but also none of the chemicals used in sunscreens.
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