Summer rolls on with beautiful sunsets and meteor showers. But if you live in Southern California or the San Joaquin Valley, you’re aware of the current heatstorm. Temperatures are averaging in the low 100s for weeks at a time, leaving you drained, lethargic and anxious for cooler days.

summer sunset, Bakersfield

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before – stay hydrated, keep cool, stay indoors, etc. I thought I’d heard it all before too, until a stint in the vegetable garden left me dizzy and faint, and feeling like I was going to pass out. Turns out, dehydration isn’t just a word used to sell Gatorade, and heatstroke isn’t a theory: they are real. And they happen fast. And it also turns out that recovery-time isn’t so fast.

So instead of learning respect for the sun the hard way, take a few tips from the pros, and brush up on your heat-smarts:

– See the nifty weather-widget on the right-hand column of this blog? Refer to it daily to get an idea of what exactly you’re dealing with. Knowledge of basic weather conditions is important, especially if you’re working outside or in a non-temperature-regulated environment.

– Always wear sunscreen, and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing if you can.

– If you’re working outside, avoid eating heavy meals; instead, try light foods with a high water content, such as salads, fruits and vegetables.

– Drinks lots of water! By lots, we mean between 8-9 glasses a day (8oz per glass.) Drink water even if you are not thirsty. Avoid drinking caffeinated liquids, or liquids with a high sugar content. (Remember that caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it draws water out of the body in the form of urine. Not good if you’re trying to stay hydrated.)

– Be aware of the symptoms associated with heatstroke/sunstroke. This may be helpful to you and to others who are working with you. The main symptoms include: sudden dizziness or faintness, headache, not sweating, rapid/weak pulse, hot/red/dry skin, high temperature (102 or higher), vomiting and muscle cramps.

Above all, use common sense! Don’t leave loved-ones (human or animal) in the car. Don’t stand in the sun for prolonged periods of time if you can avoid it. (And if you have to, wear a broad-rimmed hat or carry an umbrella.) Take water with you whenever you leave the house. Don’t overdo the outdoor physical exercise: if you must work outdoors, be sure to pause to drink water regularly. Dehydration can sneak up on you, and take it from me, it ain’t pretty…

Here’s hoping your summer is a good one!

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