I was down with heat exchaustion for two days last week, no fun! With the weeds increasing due to our summer rains it's easy to overdo it - and I did.
My local health food store sells sachets of powder called 'electro-mix' which - when mixed with water, help replenish the minerals lost due to excessive sweating. It's a natural alternative to drinks such as Gatorade which are loaded with sugar. I recommend this for anyone doing work outside in the hot months.
Thanks, Dutchlady1. I'll look for it. The heat is amazing down here but it's the sweaty clothes that slow me down. They limit my mobility and force me inside to change. Once inside I realize how hot it was out there. I'd try ice in my bra (like the previous thread suggest) but it would add to the moisture. Humidity, humidity. :}
Electro-mix is great, I'm a mail carrier in Tucson, AZ and that's what I've been using for years now after a women gardner recomended it to me. I've been using it since, I even use it at home when in the garden in midday.(which I have to do sometimes). Great article, and very good timing also.
I've worked construction on and off for 40 years.
Some tips and tricks.
Running cool not cold water on the insides of your wrists cools you down nicely.
Cold water is a BIG shock.
If you have a beard or long hair wet'em down. More evaporation.
A wet cloth or bandana tied around your neck helps... just keep it wet.
Wear wicking clothes.
These are basically sports and hiking apparel designed to evaporate perspiration from your skin.
I know it sounds bad but do not wear antiperspirant underarm deodorizers.
You want to sweat.
Try to stay out of AC for long periods as much as possible when you're gardening or working outdoors.
(of course come in if heat related problems arise)
If you constantly run in and out from Cold to Hot you pay for it.
Let your body find a rhythm.
We rarely use AC except for sleeping.
Sweating is natures way of cooling you. Do it!
If it's too hot in the shade... it's too hot period!
Get to shelter!
And as said before DRINK, DRINK, DRINK!
Gatorade and those style drinks do contain sugar but way less than sodas and you're working...
So you need calories.
Now there are sugar free versions also.
Thank you hernryr10 - a wet cloth around the neck, or even over the hair does wonders for me when it's too hot.
Having a chronic disease that is exacerbated by the heat has lead me to learn a number of tricks for staying cool in the summer months:
Pre-cool if you know the heat will get you down: take a cool shower or bath before tackling the garden in the heat. Damp hair under a sun hat will also help keep your temperature down.
Don't be afraid to get wet: dip your feet into a cool bowl of water, or sprinkle your toes for some instant relief when you're outside. Similar to the trick with the wrists: the large number of blood vessels near the surface of the skin relay the temperature change quickly to the rest of your body, and you can feel instant relief. For longer lasting effects soak you feeet in cool water for a few minutes.
Add a small spritzer to your garden tools: fill with cold water, (add some ice if it will fit, or keep your spritzer in the fridge) and whenever your feeling weak from the heat spritz yourself all over. Face, back, back of the neck, midriff, arms, legs and feet are all good spots. The evaporation will act like the cooling action of sweat. Fan yourself to achieve maximum benefits. Add some scent, (orange flower water, or rose water is great) if your feeling fancy and want to smell great too.
Again, a damp cloth is incredibly effective: you don't need to limit yourself to a purely utilitarian hankie either - any water-safe fabric will do. Add some flair with a beautiful scarf tied around your neck, wrapped around your hairline, or go full turban style with a small, discreet, well padded ice-pack tucked in for good measure. This trick works well under a hat as well. Just be careful to not give yourself head freeze.
Always keep a good sized gel-pack in the freezer - I don't know about anyone else, but after I over-do it in the garden my back is usually killing me. Not only will cold packs relieve aching muscles, this is a great way for cooling down too. Many gel-packs are designed to stay cold, or frozen, longer than a regular ice pack. If you don't want to go into the house when your working, bring one out in a cooler with your water or juice, or simply wrap all in a damp towel or dish cloth, put in the shade, and use as needed. You can purchase cooling vests and other clothing to really stay cool. You can search for these products online; Polar Products and CoolSport both make cooling garments and are a good place to start.
For some of the more severe effects of overheating, take a bath. Start with lukewarm water and gradually add cooler water to bring your body temperature down. Submerge the torso. If you can bear it, submerge hair and scalp.
Don't let it get to this point though - there are so many ways to 'Beat the Heat' - use the methods that work for you, and most importantly, use your common sense. We all need to be the best judges of our personal limits to stay healthy and to stay gardening.
Henryr10: I agree with you 100%. I also worked outside in summers (archeology) in the Alabama-Tennessee-Missippi-S. Carolina area.
Every year the new kids would show up in shorts and haltertops for the girls. The new guys went topless fbut not for long. For working outside in July and August in the humid South you need loose light colored long-sleeved, long-legged clothing, but nothing flappy that will get caught in the equipment you are using. Since we were digging we wore boots--my favorites were the Viet-nam surplus canvas jungle boots (also called Swartzkoff boots). A wide brimmed hat is essential to keep the sun off your ears and face--a prime target for skin cancer.
Yes. Stay away from air conditioning. Your body will adjust to the heat. Start working earlier in the day. Take a shady break. Then work again after 5 or 6 to take advantage of the cooler evening temperature.
Don't use deoderants. As Henryr says you want to sweat. You will be taking more showers so don't worry about the odor! Besides every body on the crew smells the same.
When my (female) boss learned that I did not use d eoderants in the field, she started sending me memos that I should use deoderant. She didnt get that it is heat adaptive to leave the smelly stuff off.
Since I ran the waterscreen I was wet most of the time, but I had forgotten how often the guys would come in from the field (often a soybean field) and douse down under the fire hoses.
Also, I would not use sunscreen working out side in hot humid weather. It stings your eyes if it gets in your sweat, and it feels greasy and uncomfortable. Wear lightweight breezy clothing instead.
I think it helps also to eat mostly mineral rich foods like fruits and vegetables, rather than fat pasty stuff like pizza and hamburgers or things with a lot of mayonaise.
And Toni thanks for the reminder. Heat Exhaustion is no fun.
I too appreciated this timely article! I am a gardener/landscaper and thus, am outdoors working in all kinds of weather conditions. After experiencing a very wet spring, we are now in a very hot and humid weather pattern. But work must continue. We start early to take advantage of cooler temps, take lots of breaks, and drink drink drink the water! Knowing my limits is very important and being aware of how you are feeling is inportant! If I need a break, I take one!!! Like was mentioned, the work will still be there!
I also don't like the way sunscreen makes me feel sticky, but I use it anyway. I have a Tilley hat (anybody heard of them?) It is so great! It has a wide brim and a vent in the top.
I have never heard of the deodorant thing... I still sweat even though I wear it! I sweat the most from my head, and continue to sweat for a while even after I've stopped working.
I don't like to go directly into A/C, I like to hose down with some water on my arms and legs first, and cool down that way a while preferably in shade, before I go indoors.
Happy summer gardening everyone, and stay cool!
Right Henryr10. Antipirspirants are a problem in adapting to the heat, not deoderants except for the grease and sickening smell.
Henry Rabbit is having a hard time adjusting to the heat here in Alabama. It was 101 yesterday - heat index around 119. I have been sponging him with water every half hour. He usually has a couple of frozen ltr bottles of ice but its so hot the freezer is not freezing his ice. He also has a fan running 24/7.
thank you for this article! my fiance's 11 yr old moved here from Idaho to Kansas and has fought us with hissy fits and screaming bouts concerning going out to play while the heat index has been 110 to 117 recently. I printed off your article to help educate her about what excessive heat can do to a person and how to recognize the signs of heat sickness. It's helped her to understand that we keep her inside for a reason and not just to be mean:)
I always anticipate fall and going back to school -- and then feeling guilty when I finished school and there were no more classes. But this fall I will be catching up on summer clean-up. The invasives have gone crazy in the heat and humidity. So I have a real project to look forward to when fall weather gets here.