In sweltering hot weather, we know that staying hydrated is essential for preventing heat exhaustion or heat stroke. As millions of Americans brace for a heat wave, it is important to keep pushing fluids in order to stay cool.
Over the weekend, Phoenix hit its highest temperature in more than two years at 118 degrees Fahrenheit, while Las Vegas came one-degree shy of its 116-degree record for July 16. National Weather Service meteorologists expect more excruciating heat in the days ahead.
The NWS has issued Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories for California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, and areas of Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Florida. This week may offer Phoenix its hottest-ever 7-day average temperature and all-time highs in the San Joaquin Valley, Mojave Desert, and Great Basin regions. Temperatures are expected to remain higher than usual through the night.
Temperatures were grueling on Saturday in various cities across California. Record high temperatures were recorded by the NWS in Lancaster, Paso Robles Airport, Sandberg, and Palmdale Airport. On Sunday, the state’s capital city Sacramento recorded a high of 109 degrees – breaking a July 16 record that held since 1935.
Like California, Texas has also suffered hotter-than-normal temperatures. In late June, the state came one-degree shy of the highest temperature recorded in the state. Sunday was the seventh straight day temperatures reached 103 degrees in San Antonio, the longest streak since records were first recorded in 1885.
“Stay indoors and seek air-conditioned buildings. Drink water, more than usual, and avoid dehydrating alcoholic, sugary, or caffeinated drinks. Dress for the heat — lightweight and light-colored clothing. Eat small meals and eat more often. Monitor those with a higher vulnerability to heat, including small children. Check-in on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly. If engaging in outdoor activity, take longer and more frequent breaks and avoid the hottest parts of the day. Never leave kids or pets unattended in cars.
“— National Weather Service
The NWS says extreme heat is the leading cause of death due to weather. According to the CDC, an average of 702 heat-related deaths occur each year. Over 67,000 Americans are expected to visit the emergency room due to heat-related illnesses in 2023.
The CDC lists drinking fluids as the most important prevention step for heat illness. When spending time in extreme heat, the CDC recommends one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. The CDC says drinking water constantly will more efficiently sustain hydration levels than drinking larger quantities less frequently. Research has linked hydration as a step to successful aging as well.
Even when you are done spending time in the heat, it is important to keep drinking water to replenish fluids lost in sweat during a heat wave. The CDC says chronic dehydration can raise the risk for negative health effects like kidney stones.
The CDC encourages Americans to avoid energy drinks loaded with caffeine when spending time in the heat. Additionally, alcohol is not recommended for consumption. Drinking alcohol within 24 hours of time in the heat increases the likelihood of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Heavy amounts of sports drinks can lead to unneeded calories from added sugars. However, sports drinks with balanced electrolytes are a good substitute to replenish lost salt from sweat.
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are the three main heat-related illnesses during elevated temperatures. Heat cramps may occur following intense exercise or time spent in hot conditions. Symptoms include heavy sweating and muscle pain. When experiencing heat cramps, it is important to slow physical activity and focus on hydration.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, nausea, muscle cramps, tiredness, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. If you are throwing up or symptoms persist for more than one hour, the CDC encourages immediate medical help.
Symptoms of heat stroke are similar to heat exhaustion. However, heat stroke is diagnosed when body temperature reaches 103 degrees or higher. If an individual is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 for medical attention.
Overall, heat waves are not only impacting the U.S. but Europe and Asia as well. The entire world should take precautions when venturing into the plume of sweat and humidity.