Travel Style – Hot Weather Health Tips

Welcome back and happy Friday! It’s the start of the Memorial Day weekend in America, the unofficial start of the summer season. It’s already hot here in the desert southwest so I feel uniquely qualified to write on this topic!

In case you missed any of this week’s earlier posts, we’ve covered:

Today’s post is all about staying healthy as you travel to/through hot locales and avoiding heat-related issues.

I have traveled to a lot of hot places and, while memories do fade, I distinctly recall the three hottest times/places in my life.

  1. Hanoi Viet Nam – 95ºF/35ºC with 65% humidity
  2. Puerto Maldonado, Peru – 98ºF/37ºC with 72% humidity
  3. Scottsdale, Arizona, USA – 118%º/48ºC with 40% humidity (monsoon season and I was strapped with about 20 pounds of camera gear to shoot a wedding =O )
  4. Honorable mention – Oddly, the day I passed out from heat exhaustion on a Costa Rican bus doesn’t stick in my memory as being hot but, apparently, it was enough to bring me down. More on that after the important stuff.

PLEASE NOTE – If you have any existing illness or condition that compromises your health SEE YOUR DOCTOR before you travel and follow his/her advice!

Here we go, my tips for minimizing your chances of heat-related illness while on the road (or just banging around your backyard):

  • Stay hydrated – This is my number one tip! Our bodies don’t register thirst until after you are hydrated, so it is vital that you sip water regularly. You can drink other non-alcoholic beverages like juice (or even soda) if you feel your blood sugar is low but the best practice is to drink water, early and often. I always have a bottle with me and slip a few drink powder sticks in my bag in case the local water tastes off or I need a boost of electrolytes without a lot of sugar (looking at you, Gatorade).
  • Get up early – Yes, I know this advice appears on a lot of my lists, but that’s because it is good advice. 🙂 Weather is cooler, crowds are lighter, and travel is just nicer before anyone else gets out. Getting up early also helps you….
  • Stay out of the sun – This may be challenging, especially if you seek out a tropical hot climate for your travels. Hats, scarves, and avoiding the peak hours of the sun from 10 to 4 can help. You can also take your own shade (T.Y.O.S.?) in an array of functional or couture sun parasols.
    • PS – ALWAYS wear sunglasses that offer UVA/B protection! Ophthalmologists have stated that too much exposure to UV rays raises the risk of eye diseases, like cataracts,  cancer, and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Use sunblock – Keeping your skin from UVA/B exposure and sunburn does help keep you cooler. If you are inclined, investigate solar clothing here and here.

Now that you know HOW you avoid heat-related issues, let’s go through WHAT to do if you, or someone in your traveling party, succumbs to the heat.

There are two different situations to consider, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion – Can be mild to severe, lead to heat stroke, and symptoms can include:

  • Clammy skin
  • Sweating
  • Flushed or pale face
  • Headache
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps

If you suspect heat exhaustion, get to a cooler shady place, loosen any restrictive clothes, and apply cool compresses to the forehead, back of neck, and wrists. Fanning is helpful and be sure to sip cool water slowly. Heat exhaustion can turn serious quickly, so be on the lookout for vomiting or loss of consciousness. If those occur, contact local emergency services immediately.

Heat stroke – Can be life-threatening and has symptoms of:

  • The above symptoms and…
  • Red skin, hot to the touch
  • Sliding in and out of consciousness
  • Elevated body temperature

If you suspect heat stroke, get to a cool, shady place and cool off the body quickly. Getting in a tub of cold water is preferable, but a pond, lake, wet towel will do, as will ice packs. The key is to cool the body down as quickly as you can.

If you are limited to wet towels or ice packs, place them at the neck, at the groin, and under the arms. This is easy to remember if you link each spot to its major artery:

Groin = Femoral, Underarm = Brachial, and Neck = Carotid OR….
G.U.N. = F.B.C. (feel better, conclusively)

When I was on that Costa Rican bus, on a hot humid day, I remember feeling fine one moment and then, feeling like I couldn’t decide between vomiting or passing out. It was a weird slow motion thing. My fast thinking travel mate laid me out on the bus floor, got a wet handkerchief on my forehead, and gave me sips of water followed by sips of kolita (for the sugar). I was all better in short order, but it was a bit unsettling as it was happening. After that, I have been religious about preventing anything remotely similar.

There you have it! A week’s worth of travel survival tips for venturing to hot climates. I hope you found these useful and I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave me a comment. As always, thanks for visiting Java and Junket. Have a great weekend and stay cool!