Hot fun in the summertime
Those summer days are here and I for one love them. Growing up in England the summertime saw us enact the following cycle on a sunny day: invite friends over for a barbecue, fire up the grill, watch the gathering clouds with despair, open the umbrella and……serve soggy burgers. Ah well. As pilots we also look on summer clouds with contempt if they harbor thunderstorms. But there are other summer risks posing a threat to your health apart from dealing with boomers.
In the past I have addressed how sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, a modern epidemic with over a million cases a year, ultraviolet rays the culprits. Additional perils that sunny days present include kidney stones, heat stroke and heart problems, all caused by heat.
The kidneys are two very capable filters, extracting waste matter and excreting it in water. If one is in a hot climate (i.e. usually not England), fluid loss through sweating and in exhaled breath limits the amount of water available to be passed by the kidneys and as a result the urine takes on a deeper yellow color. This is a warning sign that you are not drinking enough and runs the risk of certain substances that should be dissolved in the urine coming out of solution as crystals. When you attempt to pass one of these “stones” you will develop a new awareness of what the word pain means. So simply put, increase your fluid intake in the summer. There are many other reasons one might develop kidney stones, but summertime heat exposure is common and preventable.
If one has a history of heart or lung disease, an elevated heat index can pose a threat to your health. As alluded to above, fluid loss can impair the volume of circulating blood and the loss of sodium in sweat can unsettle the fine balance needed to ensure smooth functioning of nerves and muscles, including that muscle in your chest, the heart. Those warnings you have heard on the radio on hot days should be taken seriously – if you or someone you love or care about has heart or lung problems, please consider staying indoors.
Humans are pretty complex machines and are usually great at regulating body temperature, unless exposed to extreme heat in which case blood vessels in the skin expand in an effort to lose heat and keep the body cool. If the heat does not abate, our internal thermostat goes haywire and serious problems can ensue. Heat stroke is that condition where the internal temperature can top 104 degrees Fahrenheit and this can be fatal. Tell-tale signs that this is developing include an absence of sweating, flushed complexion, generalized weakness, headache, rapid “feeble” pulse and breathing and maybe even confusion. Urgent medical attention should be sought while removing the person from the heat, encouraging cool fluids with salt replenishment to drink and providing cooling to the body. Less severe cases present as “heat exhaustion” which can conversely present with shivering, goose bumps and initially a low body temperature. Less severe still are heat cramps which are characterized by muscle aches.
So enjoy those summer days but treat the sun with respect and just like you watch your oil temperature, keep an eye on your own.
July 14, 2011