Health Watch -- Adjusting to the Heat

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Are you ready to face the heat of summer?

The first few weeks of hot weather can be key to helping your body adjust to the heat. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say gradual acclimatization and taking precautions can help you prevent heat-related injuries as the summer progresses.

The body starts to adjust to warmer temperatures early in the summer, when temperatures begin to rise. Dr. Craig Crandall, a UT Southwestern expert in exercise and environmental medicine, says you can gradually expose yourself to higher temperatures over a period of one or two weeks to adjust yourself to the heat. You don't want to rush straight from living in the cool indoors to doing strenuous activities outside in the heat without a period of adjustment.

The other key to summer survival is hydration. Your body cools itself by sweating, so it needs more fluids to stay cool. Water is the best fluid to drink to keep yourself hydrated. Avoid sugary drinks and beverages containing caffeine or alcohol. Alcohol and caffeine can leave you even more dehydrated.

No matter how well adjusted you are to the hot weather, and no matter how much water you drink, it's still best to avoid intense activity outdoors during the hottest part of the day.

Be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Look for nausea, headache, dizziness, weakness and pale skin. If you notice these symptoms, get to a cooler environment - preferably indoors and air conditioned - and get some water to drink.


June 2004