Our bodies produce a tremendous amount of internal heat and we normally cool ourselves by sweating and radiating heat through the skin. However, in extreme heat, high humidity, or vigorous activity in the hot sun, this cooling system may begin to fail, allowing heat to build up to dangerous levels. When a person becomes dehydrated and cannot sweat enough to cool their body, their internal temperature may exceed 106 F (41 C ). This is a life-threatening condition and emergency medical attention is needed immediately.
Here are some simple things you can do to stay hydrated:
Monitor Your Number One’s
Urine color is the easiest way to monitor your hydration levels. If you are well hydrated, your urine should be the color of light lemonade. Darker, you need more water. Here is a color chart to give you an idea of what healthy looks like: THORZT Urine Colour Chart
Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. If you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Instead drink small amounts frequently at regular intervals. 8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes is the recommendation for working in the heat.
Carry a Drink Bottle
You are more inclined to drink when fluid is readily available. Aim to refill the bottle at least once every hour.
Wear a Hydration Backpack
If a drink bottle is not feasible or refill facilities are not accessible, a hydration backpack is great for hands free hydration. Amazon.com has several styles starting at less than $20.
Studies show that over half of workers show up to work already 2 percent dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids in the hours before your shift so that you are not starting your work day with a fluid deficit.
Avoid Ice Cold Drinks
Icy cold water causes the blood vessels in your stomach to constrict and reduces the rate fluid is absorbed. Cool water is absorbed faster, which is important to keep you hydrated when working in the heat.
Limit Caffeine Intake
Avoid consuming caffeine before and during the shift (this includes coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks). Caffeine has a diuretic effect which increases water loss and contributes to dehydration.
Avoid Alcohol - Even the day before work
Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic and can cause severe dehydration. If you consume alcohol 24-36 hours before your shift you may not recover and your dehydration levels will only worsen throughout the shift.
Eat - Take Adequate Meal Breaks
Food is one of the primary ways we replace lost fluids. Eating food also helps to stimulate your thirst response, causing you to drink more. Ensure your diet includes lots of leafy greens, fresh fruit and nuts to help replenish the electrolytes lost through sweat.
Drink an Electrolyte Beverage
Heavy sweat rates can cause substantial electrolyte losses. An electrolyte drink will replenish lost electrolytes quickly. Choose a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink (low GI) for sustained energy release, or sugar free electrolyte drink for carb-free electrolyte replenishment.
Work Smarter – Not Harder
Schedule harder work and physically demanding tasks for cooler parts of the day. When this is unavoidable, consider sharing the load / rotating with another co-worker. Ensure adequate work-rest cycles are in place, check the forecast at the start of each day and adjust the work:rest cycles accordingly.
Choose lightweight workwear made from organic materials such as cotton. Organic fibers breath better and promote airflow. Synthetic fibers trap heat and moisture - and they stink.
Try a Cooling Vest or Other Evaporative Wearables
Cooling vests come in several configurations that have liquid or gel inserts that you refrigerate before wearing, then put on during work. Originally developed for professional athletes, cooling vests are becoming increasing popular among workers to help regulate their core temperate when performing physically demanding work in the heat. Similar items are cooling towels, bandanas, and hats.
Wear Water-resistant Sunscreen
While sunscreen doesn't keep you hydrated, when you’re sweating for long hours out in the melting sun you need to ensure your sunscreen is water resistant, long lasting and covers you with the highest possible levels of UV protection. Look for sunscreen labels that say 'water resistant' with a high broad spectrum SPF. Often, the manufacturer will describe their product as good for sports and high performance. Don't look for 'waterproof'. No manufacturer is allowed to claim their sunscreen is waterproof. Consumer Reports gives these three sunscreens their top ratings:
Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 Lotion - CR Rating: 98
Walmart Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50 Lotion - CR Rating: 98
Trader Joe's Spray SPF 50+ CR Rating: 100