Don't get burned; dehydration is easy

By Amy Fredette

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona summers provide abundant opportunities for exercising, tanning and participating in recreational activities, but without the proper precautions they can prove to be an unpleasant and sometimes fatal experience.

Neglecting to adequately hydrate the body or refusing to listen to its messages can lead to heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke and in severe cases, death, said Marian Hendricks, a fitness educator at the University of Arizona Wellness Center.

At age 14, Tara Lewis, a UA psychology senior, said she went tanning with a friend in Tempe for about six hours.

"It was the middle of the summer and it was 120 degrees out," she said. "We were drinking iced tea and pouring pure coconut oil on our bodies."

Lewis said she and her friend went inside her house and ate some cereal, then went into the bathroom and "barfed and barfed."

"My friend's mother came home and found us unconscious on the floor," she said. "She rushed us to the emergency room and they told her we had heat stroke. We were completely dehydrated."

After her experience, Lewis said she does not leave the house without consulting the burn index guide in the {Tucson Citizen} or the {Arizona Daily Star} and putting on sunscreen. Thinking back on her experience, Lewis said, "we were young and dumb and trying to get a tan."

Some indications of potential problems include light-headedness, profuse sweating, headaches and nausea. When these warning signs occur, "the body's ability to regulate its temperature is being overloaded, and you need to get out of the sun, get into a cool place and drink plenty of fluids," says Hendricks.

"It is important to drink at least eight to ten cups of water a day if you're not sitting or exercising outside," she said. "If you're outside laying out or exercising, you should drink one cup of a hydrating fluid every 15 to 30 minutes in addition to the eight to ten cups."

Hendricks also said the beverage of choice should be decaffeinated and non-alcoholic, because both can cause dehydration.

The Tucson sun can also be injurious to the skin, so Hendricks recommends that people wear sunscreen at all times and avoid the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

"A tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged by the sun," she said.

People should wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15, even if your skin does not burn, Hendricks said.

For students exercising outdoors, Hendricks suggested working out early in the morning, preferably before 8 a.m. and evenings after 6 p.m. Hendricks said that even though a person's body can get used to exercising in the heat, anybody can have problems and that people need to be careful.

And for those who participate in other outdoor activities such as tubing down the Salt River or going to the beach, she recommended limiting alcoholic intake.

"You're asking for trouble," Hendricks said. "You have two forces working against you (alcohol and the sun). Your judgement might be impaired and you might not know when to get out of the sun. Your body cannot handle the heat load."

Hendricks said if someone feels like they are experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke, that person should seek medical help immediately. "Don't be embarrassed because it happens to all of us, even if you're a native."

Read Next Article