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It seems that no part of the U.S. has been spared from blistering weather this week. The Northeast topped out with temperatures nearing 100 degrees, Arizona’s Death Valley recorded a whopping 120 degree high, and three cities in the typically cooler Great Lakes region (Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago) experienced temperatures in the mid-90s, the hottest of the season. It's not just uncomfortable -- too being too hot for long can cause heatstroke, according to the Mayo Clinic. Here's how to stay cool and healthy when it's hot:
Turn on your A/C
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists air conditioning as the number one protective factor against heat-related illnesses -- the best way to stay cool is to crank up the cold air. If you don’t air conditioning, hang out in a public place that does, like the mall, museum or movie theater. Many big cities, like New York and Chicago, have set up cooling centers for those who have no access to air conditioning. Call your local health department for more information.
When it’s this hot, you have to drink water -- and lots of it. The New York City Office of Emergency Management (DOHMH) recommends drinking plenty of liquid, even if you don’t feel thirsty. And while one beer probably won’t put you at risk for heatstroke, it’s generally best to avoid alcohol and other dehydrating beverages containing caffeine or sugar. If you really don't like water, try a sports drink like Gatorade to replace the salt you’re bound to sweat out.
Eat something light
You can cool down your diet, too. Shira Lenchewski, R.D., founder of the Work+Play Method™ recommends water-based foods like cucumbers and melons, smoothies and frozen raspberries or blueberries for a quick, chilly snack. Instead of an ice cream fix, she suggests frozen yogurt as a healthier alternative (her favorite are Yasso Greek yogurt bars).
While the average American consumes enough salt to replace what's lost via sweating, it’s important for those who exercise rigorously (especially outdoors) to boost their sodium intake right now. For example, Lenchewski recommends a serving of salted almonds and coconut water, which has less sugar than sports drinks. As a rule of thumb, don't eat heavy foods to remain as comfortable as possible during sweltering summer days, Lenchewski says. “I recommend using this heat wave as an excuse to make more no-cook meals, with more raw produce to retain water content," she says.
Wear looser clothes
To stay cool in hot weather it’s best to wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes in a breathable fabric, according to the DOHMH. Exercise clothes are your best bet, as many are made for the express purpose of drawing the sweat off your skin. Wear sunscreen and a hat to protect your face and head from the blistering sun.
Take precautions outside
When you need to be outdoors stay in the shade and out of the direct sun as much as possible, advises the DOHMH. Avoid any strenuous activity except in the cooler morning hours before 7:00 a.m. or after sunset. Once you return inside, take a cold shower or bath to cool down. If you work outside, drink water every 15 minutes, take breaks inside an air-conditioned area and watch for signs of heatstroke in you and your colleagues.
Symptoms of heatstroke:
When a body is unable to cool itself down, you're susceptible to heatstroke is the most serious and deadly of heat illness. The most common symptoms are nausea, dizziness, trouble breathing, headache, flushed skin a racing heart rate, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you or someone you know experience any of these signs, find a cool place to rest, drink plenty of water and get to the hospital ASAP!