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A Few Ways to Keep Your Cool

September 08, 1997|TIMES WIRE SERVICES

As the rest of the nation starts to cool down, September is the month when summer typically comes to Southern California. Experts recommend the following ways to survive a heat wave.

* Drink plenty of fluids. Most people greatly underestimate how much they need. Start by drinking a glass or two of water before going outdoors. Best bets are cool drinks, because they are absorbed more quickly by the body than liquids at room temperature or above. Figure that it's possible to lose 1.5 to 2 quarts of fluid per hour, or as much as 4 to 5 pounds doing vigorous physical activity in the heat.

* Avoid alcoholic beverages and drinks containing caffeine: Both act as natural diuretics, hastening the loss of fluids from the body.

* Dilute fruit juices. The high concentration of carbohydrates in full-strength juice can interfere with absorption and may cause gastrointestinal distress.

* Eat light, cool meals. Turning on the oven and stove adds unnecessary heat to the house. Better choices are foods that need little cooking or that can be prepared using a microwave.

* Stay in air-conditioning as much as possible. For those whose homes don't have central air, close off one room and use a window air conditioner to keep it livable. Open windows elsewhere in your home to promote cross-ventilation. Use fans as much as possible and keep lighting low to reduce heat. Spend time at air-conditioned malls, movies, restaurants and public libraries.

* Wear appropriate clothing. Older people who are more prone to feeling cold often tend to overdress in the heat. Wear cotton or cotton-blend clothes, which are good at absorbing perspiration.

* Take cool showers or tepid baths to lower body temperature. Cool cloths applied to the head, wrists and neck can also improve comfort in the heat.

* Recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness. Confusion; nausea; headaches; tiredness; muscle cramps; a fast, weak heartbeat; and shallow breathing are signs of heat sickness. Get medical help right away. Someone who has skin that feels warm to the touch and has stopped sweating needs immediate emergency medical treatment.

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