31
Jul
08

169. The Perils of Summer. Part I: Heat


I recently have noticed many more homeless folks out and about with the warmer, longer days of summer. While the summer season can be a blessing from the harshness of the cold,winter months this season is not without it’s dangers for those who don’t have shelter. Depending upon geographic locations, there are certain dangers of outdoor living that everyone who lives without shelter should be aware of. The basic “perils” of summertime fall into two categories: The heat and the critters of the summer months.

The Heat
The biggest challenge for homeless folks during the heat of the summer months is making sure that hydration is well monitored. Lack of fluids leading to dehydration can lead to big trouble and can be very,very serious. Fluids are essential for all functions of the body year round but in the summertime it is especially important to monitor fluid intake as the body can loose fluid through increased sweating.
Our bodies have about 20 quarts of fluid on board and loosing even 1-2 quarts can lead to symptoms of dehydration. Preventing dehydration is much easier than treating it. The general rule of thumb is that without undue sweating 3-4 quarts of water should be consumed daily & more is better,especially with higher temperatures & higher altitudes.(the higher the altitude,the less humidity requiring more fluids to be added for normal breathing) It’s important to remember that soft drinks, alcohol and coffee all have diuretic properties (they promote the body to lose water) so these should be avoided for good hydration in the heat.

Signs of dehydration may include: headaches, infrequent urination, irritablitity,dizziness, increased pulse rate, fatigue,loss of balance and nausea and vomitting.

Water and sports drinks are the drinks of choice to prevent dehydration.There are various sports drinks available that are very good options for adding fluids but these drinks are typically costly. An easy and less expensive option for these sports drinks can be made by obtaining some salt & sugar packets (which are readily available in convenience stores for free) that can be added to water. Simply add 2 pinches of salt & 1/2 packet of sugar to an 8 ounce glass of water.( The actual recipe is 1/4 teaspoon salt and 4 teaspoons sugar per liter of water.) Extreme cases of dehydration require IV fluids so prevention of dehydration is key.

Another peril of the summer heat is heat stroke. Heat stroke is when the body becomes over heated with an elevated internal temerature Taking care to always drinks plenty of fluids, limit activities to cooler times of the day ,avoiding strenous acitivities in extremely hot conditions,wearing loose, cool clothing & staying out of the heat are all important ways to avoid heat stroke. Prevention is key as becoming over heated can lead to confusion and in extreme cases seizures & even death. If overheating does happen anything that promotes cooling of the body helps~immersion in cool water, intake of cold fluids and even cold packs (ice) to the underarm and pulse points is effective in cooling the body.

Part II: Critters~to be continued.

An American

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