How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion During the LA Heatwave
Los Angeles is under a heat advisory again for a week. The one rolling in today through the end of the week isn’t going to hit the extreme 110 – 117 degree highs that we had during our last heat wave two weeks ago, but could be more dangerous.
While temperatures are not expected to reach over 110 degrees in Los Angeles this week, what makes this possibly more concerning is that it is not expected to cool down at night. And while the beaches are usually significantly cooler, they are going to be in the upper 90s thorough this one.
How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion
News outlets telling people what to do to protect themselves from the heat give some good advice, but miss the most important point. Prolonged high temperatures deplete your body of the necessary electrolytes that are necessary for it to function! The two main ones are salt and potassium.
Yeah, I know salt is the “bad guy on the block” and doctors are continually telling you to avoid it. But in the effort to tell you to not over consume sodium, they fail to mention what happens if you have too little of it. Sodium is an electrolyte the body needs to help regulate blood pressure and ensure muscle and nerve cells work properly. When blood sodium drops too low, headache, muscle weakness, cramps, lethargy, fatigue, confusion, irritability, decreased consciousness, even possible coma and death are the result.
Potassium plays a similar role. Potassium is an essential mineral that has many roles in your body. It helps regulate muscle contractions, maintain healthy nerve function and regulate fluid balance. Weakness, fatigue, muscle cramps and spasms are symptoms of your potassium levels dropping too low.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include confusion, dizziness, fatigue, fainting, headache, muscle cramps, nausea, pale skin, profuse sweating (which further depletes electrolytes) and rapid heartbeat. Bear in mind that the heart is a muscle, and proper levels of both salt and potassium in the blood are necessary for proper muscle function.
If you are noticing a similarity in the symptoms of heat exhaustion and deficiencies of the two electrolytes it’s because the three conditions occur together. As your body heats up, perspiration increases causing a loss of salt and potassium. It was this observation that led to the development of the first “sports drink,” Gatorade.
The beverage was developed in 1965 by a team of researchers after analyzing what was lost in the perspiration of the University of Florida’s football team, the Gators. Thus Gatorade was developed to replenish the carbohydrates, water and electrolytes the players lost in sweat during rigorous sport activities.
Advice typically given to deal with the heatwave is to limit outdoor activity, or do outdoor activities early in the morning or late in the evening. During this heat wave it isn’t likely to be much cooler during these times.
There are also a great number of people in Los Angeles that don’t have air conditioning. And some people may lose their air conditioning due to power failures. Public libraries, recreation centers and many government buildings are being set up as “cool down centers.” Go hand out in one of those, or even go grocery shopping in a store with good air conditioning that isn’t afraid to turn it on!
But most of all, make sure you are keeping your electrolytes in balance. Sport drinks will help. A more natural solution is to drink coconut water which is rich in potassium and natural sugars. Add some extra salt to what you eat. You can eliminate it again after it cools down! If this last step is done, you should have no real concerns about heat exhaustion setting in.
There are still places that will be notably cooler. While not as much cooler as they usually are this time, cooler is cooler. We collected some lists of these places for you and are linking to them below in case you want to head to cooler ground.