Adome of heat is again upon us, as it is every summer. Since high temperatures are the predominant weather conditions in most areas of Pakistan, we have learnt to live through it and survive. But each year many people suffer a lot when they get heat stroke because the heat can become overpowering for our senses so quickly.
Last year at this time, there was lockdown due to Covid-19 almost all over the country. Thus most people were able to stay indoors and away from the sun, but, unfortunately, not from the heat. But it somewhat helped, especially in case of people who have to work outside in the sun or hot spaces.
Now life is moving on at the usual pace and some educational institutions are open for on campus classes, while others are taking online classes. And with Ramazan just around the corner, there is much to take care of during the coming months to stay healthy and safe. And, of course, we can’t forget the pandemic that is leading to a spike in infections during this third wave.
Here are some tips to help you sail through the summer in a safe and healthy manner.
Shun the sun
The sun’s peak hours are generally 11 am to 4 pm, although the temperature can remain hot for a longer period. Avoid too much exposure to the sun at these times and try to do outdoor activities in the evenings when it is much cooler. Of course, those working or studying cannot choose their timing. But we also tend to run some errands during the peak heat period, thinking that it is just going to take a little time and will not be too much trouble. But heat stroke can hit before you even realise it, so it is better to postponed things to a cooler time.
This also holds true for things that you do at home, since our homes are also very hot as not everyone has air conditioning and the fan just blows hot air, if there is electricity. Don’t let mum spend too much time in the kitchen during the day and keep your demands simple. Cooking is one of the hardest chores to do at home and all should have consideration for the person doing it.
Go light and cool
Wear loose, lightweight clothing that are also light-coloured. The colour of your dress is also going to keep you cool if you go for lighter ones, avoid black at all cost. It absorbs too much heat.
Take showers or baths at least once every day, if not more. It will not just clean off the sweat, but also cool you down. And if you feel that your exposure to the heat has been too much, a shower is the best way to cool yourself. I know a lot of people say that when you have been outside in the sun for long, you shouldn’t immediately take a bath or wash up as the change in temperate can be bad for health.
This can be true, so you can wait a few minutes, but we are warned basically against taking a bath with ‘cold water’, and who gets cold water in the taps in summer? In fact, in most cases, the tap water is so hot that it is impossible to take a bath or even wash the face. This is why some people like to also keep water in a bucket, which is comparatively cooler that tap water, and use it.
We tend to sweat in the heat since it is the body’s mechanism for self-cooling, but in the process our body becomes dehydrated, so we need to drink plenty of water. Other drinks also help, but they should be in addition to water and not as a replacement.
It is recommended that an adult should drink between two to four glasses of water every hour in excessive heat. So do not wait until you are thirsty to hydrate your body.
If you are going out, even for a few minutes, do take a small water bottle as you never know when you will need it.
Watch your diet
It is important to pay attention to what you eat and drink. This is particularly important in the upcoming month of Ramazan when we like to feast on heavy, oily and spicy food items. Our traditional Iftar favourites like samosas and pakoras, with spicy chaats, are not suitable for Ramazan at the peak of summer. Avoid them just as you should avoid parathas for Sahoor, for these are not right for our digestive system and overall health.
Remember that diet affects how you can manage your body’s response to high temperature. Therefore, it is important to eat less salty food and protein, which produce metabolic heat that causes water loss. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and do not overload your digestive system by eating too much at once, like we tend to do at Iftar.
There are many water-laden fruits these days in the markets, such as the various types of melons. Chill them in the fridge and enjoy them as a major portion of your diet and you will not just feel light, but the nutritious richness of these fruits will be good for your skin, hair and immune system.
Also include yoghurt-based food and drinks, or simply plain yoghurt. Lassi is a glass full of energy and the best drink to have in Ramazan, be it at Iftar or Sahoor.
Salads and cucumbers are also better choices than the spicy and fried things we stuff ourselves with. Try including these in your regular diet. And coconut water is one of the most beneficial gifts of nature’s, full of health benefits and cooling properties. It contains simple sugars, electrolytes and minerals, that keep the body hydrated and nourished.
Cover your head
If you notice, people who live in very hot and very cold places tend to have traditional head coverings, like caps or turbans that they never go out without.
There is ancient wisdom in keeping the head covered to avoid exposure to extreme temperatures, as our brain is a very sensitive organ and is affected far more easily by a shift in temperature than the rest of the body. Head coverings act as a thermal barrier and prevent the sun’s harmful rays from hitting out head and face directly. So, try wearing a hat or covering your head in some way when you are out in the sun.
Cars can get very hot
Do not stay in a car or leave anyone sitting inside waiting in an idle car as the sun’s radiation heats objects in the car, such as a dark dashboard or seat, warming the air trapped inside a vehicle. It takes about two minutes for a car to go from a safe temperature to an unsafe one. This is also why there are deaths each year around the world due to children and people being left inside cars in summers.
Published in Dawn, Young World, April 10th, 2021