Since today is the beginning of summer and it’s been in the mid-90′s in my neck of the woods for the past week or two, I figured it would be prudent to share some obvious and other not-so-obvious personal water conservation ideas when confronted with extreme heat situations.
Know that conserving water is certainly about basic survival, however, dehydration WILL affect your cognitive abilities such as your ability to reason as well as your ability to function physically.
You should also understand that specific circumstances can and will contribute to your level of dehydration besides how hot it is outside including:
- extreme humidity levels (high humidity does not allow the body to sweat and thus cool off whereas low humidity will essentially “suck” the moisture from you)
- food intake (digesting food requires water, so, limit food consumption if potable water is not readily available)
- sun/wind exposure (direct exposure to the sun will further heat your skin while wind will “wick” away precious sweat from your skin more quickly)
- consumption of natural diuretics such as alcohol or coffee which require more water to filter them out of your body
- your physical exertion (more activity means more sweat and more water lost)
The Obvious Ideas
- Stay indoors or at least in the shade during the heat of the day
- Avoid midday work or travel
- Take breaks frequently
- Move slowly and avoid over-exertion in extreme heat
- Shade your head, neck, and face with a large brimmed hat or other breathable material
- Do not limit water consumption
The (Maybe) Not So Obvious Ideas
- Breathe through the nose (helps to conserve water)
- Never go shirtless (you will get sunburned VERY quickly, speed dehydration, and increase chances for heat stroke and heat exhaustion)
- Wear long, breathable clothing preferably light colored (helps to reduce directly exposed skin, retain critical moisture, and light colors reflect light)
- Rather than always drinking water, consider keeping water in your mouth for a few minutes before drinking it (reduces feelings of thirst and promotes salivation)
- Suck on something small such as a blade of grass, pebble, etc (same reason as previous bullet)
Know the Warning Signs
You should also know the warning signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion (from FEMA; see below). It could save someones life. Also consider reading FEMA’s online resource entitled First Aid for Heat-Induced Illnesses. on how to deal with sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
- Cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin
- heavy sweating
- nausea or vomiting
- Body temperature will be near normal
- Hot, red skin
- changes in consciousness
- rapid, weak pulse
- rapid, shallow breathing
- Body temperature can be very high– as high as 105 degrees
Lastly, spend a few minutes reading the information regarding extreme heat via the links found in the Disaster Information You Should Know page.