In Hawai‘i, late summer and early fall are the times of year when temperatures tend to go up.
However, this is the time of year when folks are most active and gearing up for a road race, whether it be beginning a training program or toeing the start line of an event.
With all these physical activities in the higher temperatures and humidity, there is risk for heat illness.
Various populations can suffer from heat illnesses, whether it be someone just enjoying a nice hike or athletes training for their sports.
There is a wide spectrum of heat illnesses, some of which seem minor, but others that are life-threatening, including:
- Heat edema.
- Heat cramps.
- Heat exhaustion.
- Heat stroke.
Staying hydrated before, during and after activities is essential to preventing heat illnesses.
Why is hydration important?
Our bodies need a certain amount of water to work normally.
Water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells and helps the body absorb minerals and other nutrients. It also supports many of the body’s processes, including metabolism.
There is no golden rule that says how much you should drink each day. How much water a person drinks also depends on the individual.
One easy way to determine how much water your body needs is this simple equation:
- Take your weight and divide it by two. This will give you the daily value of water in ounces.
- For example, a person weighing 150 pounds needs to drink 75 ounces of water a day.
If you’re unsure if you’re drinking enough water, check your urine. If it’s clear or pale, then you are on the right track. If it’s darker, just keep drinking more water.
A few tips to ensure good hydration include the following:
- Carry your own water bottle with you at all times so you can easily fill it up whenever possible.
- Start drinking water even before you are thirsty.
- Hydrate before, during and after exercising or spending time at the beach.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, iced tea and soda, which tend to pull water from the body and make you more dehydrated.
- If you prefer flavored beverages, try water with a slice of cucumber, lemon or mint. Fruit is acidic and can break down the enamel of your teeth slowly, so drinking infused water should not be done regularly.
- When in doubt, water is always best!
Other tips to reduce the risk of heat illnesses include:
- Wear short-sleeved, loose-fitting, light-colored, open-weave or moisture-wicking clothing. Hats and sunglasses also help protect against the harsh effects of the sun.
- Wear hats and sunglasses.
- Use water-based sunscreen and apply frequently. Avoid oil- or gel-based sunscreens, as these can block evaporative cooling.
- Monitor weather and humidity.
- Be cautious with nutritional supplements, which may contain stimulants such as caffeine and ephedrine that will negatively affect hydration and heat metabolism.
- If not conditioned to the heat and humidity of Hawaii, some athletes will need seven to 10 days to adjust; however, total heat acclimation can take 10-14 days. During this time, athletes and coaches should:
- Avoid extremely strenuous activities.
- Minimize the amount of protective equipment (helmets, shoulder pads, etc.) used during practices.
- Alter practices and workouts by decreasing intensity and duration, taking frequent water breaks and moving to a shaded or breezy area.
- Modify practices depending on weather.
Remember: To prevent heat illness, adequate hydration before, during and after activities is essential.
For more health articles, wellness tips, recipes and more to help you on your training journey, visit HealthierHawaii.org.