Got an outdoor project planned this weekend? Well, how are you going to prevent heat exhaustion? It’s going to be 97 degrees this weekend! Stay tuned for more info.
The first year that I was married and was a first-time homeowner, I needed to stain the deck of the house. I think it was the Fourth of July or some other holiday that summer, and I thought, I’m going to get out there and stain this deck myself. I can do it! So I just barreled through it. I was out there staining and getting the wood all prepped and taken care of and by the time it was over, I think I’d spent something like four or five hours staining the deck. I was whooped! I could barely stand up after that. I actually had plans for later that day. I was newly back in North Carolina, and I was going to go out later that day to try out a new mountain biking trail. Not only did I not go mountain biking, all I could do for the rest of the day was lie on the couch with a headache, get lightheaded every time I stood up, and be nauseated. I had heat exhaustion. I fell victim to the “weekend warrior” idea where you go out into the heat, overdo it, and end up sick.
The question is, how do you prevent that from happening? How do you prevent heat exhaustion? Now, there are guidelines for folks who work outdoors in the heat or for athletes who are outdoors in the heat, and it’s a graded increase for acclimatization to the heat. However, that’s impractical for the average person. I can’t go outdoors every day and spend a significant time out there adjusting. I just have to tackle my project on Saturday. What do you do then? How do you reduce the likelihood of heat exhaustion?
There are a couple of ways you can do it. One is to get hydrated before you start your project. Second is to be deliberate about staying hydrated, so drinking plenty. And third is to deliberately take breaks throughout the course of the project. Come back inside, cool yourself off, and not just like two minutes inside patting off all of the sweat and then go back out and get back to it. Instead, spend some time inside cooling yourself down. If your body temperature is up to, say, 101 degrees because you’re outside working in the heat and you’re not acclimated to it, it’s going to take you a while to cool back down. Give yourself those breaks. And it turns out, this isn’t ironclad protection against heat exhaustion, but it can do a really good job of reducing the likelihood that, like me, you lose the second half of your day and are lying on the couch feeling terrible. Hydrate beforehand, hydrate during the exertion, and take frequent breaks to cool yourself down.
I hope this has been helpful. Enjoy your weekend projects. For Sentinel, I’m Dr. O’Connell.