Triple-digit temperatures recently hit the Sacramento region. These hot days can expose people to dehydration, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. To stay safe and keep cool, we asked UC Davis Health occupational and environmental medicine expert Sheri Belafsky for tips to beat the heat.

Add lemon, cucumber or berries to iced water to hydrate
Add lemon, cucumber or berries to iced water to hydrate

Drink before you’re thirsty. Thirst is often the first sign of dehydration. Belafsky recommends those who work outdoors drink one quart of water per hour. Those who work indoors should consider setting a “water alarm” that will remind them to stay hydrated.

Acclimate yourself to the heat. “It takes a few weeks to acclimate your body to the heat. Be mindful and recognize that your water requirements will increase,” Belafsky said.

Skip the caffeine. “It’s tempting to reach for a soda or iced tea on a warm day to quench your thirst,” Belafsky said. “But people aren’t aware that the caffeine they’re consuming is doing the exact opposite of what they need. It's dehydrating.” Instead, she recommends opting for herbal iced tea that’s decaffeinated, sparkling water or to create your own “spa water” that’s infused with fresh fruit.

Wear breathable fabrics. Try wearing lightweight cotton, linen or a blend which feel cool to the touch and are breathable. Avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester that don’t allow the body’s natural cooling system to work. If you’ll be in and out of buildings with air conditioning, Belafsky suggests wearing light layers such as a summer cardigan or chambray shirt.

Know your personal risk. “Certain populations are more vulnerable to the heat,” said Belafsky. “People with chronic kidney disease or diabetes, for example. It’s important to understand how extreme temperatures affect your medical condition.” Belafsky also shared that common medications can also impact a person’s ability to stay cool or hydrated. Thyroid medication and diuretics that treat blood pressure can cause excessive sweating and salt depletion that leads to dehydration. Beta blockers for heart conditions can impair sweating which makes it hard for the body to cool itself.

Use an easy “life hack.” Dip your feet into a cool bath for 15 minutes to relax and cool your body down after a long day. Before bedtime, pop a clean pillowcase into your freezer for 30 minutes to enjoy a cool night’s sleep. “Take a shower before bed,” Belafsky said. “This will take anything sticky off your skin and make it easier for your body to use its natural evaporative cooling mechanism, especially if you’re near a fan.”

Related stories:
Exercise safely in summer heat
Surviving summer with chronic lung disease
Warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illness