Summer is upon us and of course, like every year before, we’re looking for ways to beat the heat. While we know that heat can cause extreme discomfort, it can also lead to heat exhaustion, as I found out earlier this month. I’d like to share my story with you and how you can avoid being caught in this deadly predicament.
So what is heat exhaustion? It’s not simply being hot and exhausted, oh no, it’s much more dangerous than that. People suffering from heat exhaustion may, and probably will, experience one or more of the following symptoms; Nausea, dizziness, headache, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, muscle cramps, and whole lot more. If not treated right away, it can lead to heat stroke, in which you pass out because your body’s nervous system cannot regulate temperature. More often than not, heat stroke will cause organ and brain damage. Not fun. Luckily I was able to catch heat exhaustion before it got to that point.
Here I am in sunny Phoenix Arizona where temperatures are at record breaking highs for this time of year, already reaching the triple digits in May. I grew up in temperate Southern California, so my body is not used to the harsh environment out here. It’s either freezing, or so hot you’ll wonder how anyone can even live out here. The air is extremely dry, mostly zero humidity year ’round. The higher elevation exposes people here to harsher UV rays than where I came from. Keep in mind that I have to take a train, 2 buses, and walk about a mile to work everyday. Knowing all this, but still not realizing how serious the environment really is, I’d only been seeking shade and drinking plenty of water to try to stay healthy and cool. This wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot. Heat exhaustion can come on either rapidly or slowly over a few days. The latter is what happened to me. I’ll drop it on ya, day-by-day.
Day 1, Friday: Fridays are my Mondays, so I had plenty of time to recoup from the previous week’s general tiredness. Today was very hot. I work in a kitchen, so of course that doesn’t help much. I got most of my work done and was able to finish up at the same time as one of our delivery drivers so he gave me a ride back to the lightrail (train) station.
Condition: Tired, headache, slightly sunburned
Day 2, Saturday: Train, bus, then I had just missed the other bus so I walked over to the Greyhound station to play some Galaga and Ms PacMan before catching the final bus and making that long last trek to work. Lots of work today, busy busy busy in the kitchen. Took occasional 10 minute breaks, didn’t stop for lunch (BIG mistake, don’t EVER skip lunch!!!). Finished up, walked, 103 outside, bus, bus, train, walk home, pass out.
Condition: Sunburned, irritated, tired, sore, loss of appetite
Day 3, Sunday: Same thing to get to work. Had help in the kitchen today so it was a shorter day. The new kid that I was training gave me a ride home, so it wasn’t too bad. I think that the damage had already been done at this point though as the next day wouldn’t be the best.
Condition: Tired, sore, loss of appetite, dehydration, dizziness
Day 4, Monday: Struggling to make my way to work, sun beating down. Had drank 2 bottles of water before even leaving the apartment. Got to work, did my job, left early since the work was done. Is it really worth it to travel 2 hours for a 4 hour shift? I don’t think so. By the time I had gotten off of work, my mind was in a haze. I was hot, sweating only a little bit, pretty much almost passed out on the bus ride home. Sometimes I sleep on the way home, but this wasn’t like that. I was trying to stay conscious getting home. I took a cold shower, then headed back out again to meet up with a friend to talk games and get coffee. Going out again, mistake. Coffee? What was I thinking? When I got home that evening I felt like complete crap, physically. Mentally, I could barely think.
Condition: Full blown heat exhaustion. Dehydration, muscle cramps, stomach cramps, headache, soreness, high temperature.
Day 5, Tuesday: I called in. It’s not worth my health. I stayed home and called off work. I was only a week out from quitting anyways since I’m moving this month. I felt terrible. I tried to stay in bed most of the day. Air conditioning, water, I ate very little as my stomach was upset and I could barely keep anything down. I was awake for a few hours, then slept for a few more hours, then was up for a little while before calling it a night. It was not fun, and I’m going to try my best to stay in for the rest of the duration we are here.
So did I recover? Well, yes. It took a couple days to get rehydrated and to regain any strength to do anything. Let’s not do that again!
Now what can you do to avoid heat exhaustion/stroke? Well, you could stay inside and play video games and watch movies, but alas, we have responsibilities. If you must leave the house, remember to stay hydrated. Drink lots of water, be sure to eat salty (healthy) snacks so the water will stay with you. Foods high in carbohydrates and potassium are also good choices. Wear loosely fit clothing, in layers if you can. Wear SUNSCREEN. Wear a HAT. Stay out of the heat as much as possible. Cold showers, fans, and spritzer bottles are your friends.
Good luck out there and don’t make the same mistakes I did!