August 1, 2006
-- True or False: Eating spicy foods will help cool you down. True, maybe. People from the hottest climates on the planet do tend to eat some of the spiciest cuisine. Think: Malaysian, Indian, Mexican. Spicy peppers season most equatorial food. Why? It's not just for the flavor. Eating a superspicy meal induces sweating, which may help you feel colder, said clinical nutritionist Diane Radler. However, drinking cold fluids -- and lots of them -- is the best way to prevent dehydration, she says.
True or False: Grab a sports drink to beat the heat. True, if you're an athlete, Radler says. Sports drinks are made for athletes who sweat a lot in hot weather. But most people don't need the special electrolyte balance, and the sugar in the drinks might make you feel thirstier. Be sure to avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks. Your best bet is chilled water.
True or False: Don't worry about the medicines you normally take. False. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, there are quite a few medications that can make it more difficult to control body temperature, from diuretics to beta blockers. Before spending a lot of time in the heat, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist about this possible side effect.
True or False: During a heat wave, Texans cope better than New Yorkers. True. After spending a lot of time in hot weather, people acclimate to it and find it less bothersome. This is why more people die in heat waves in Northern cities -- they simply aren't accustomed to blistering temperatures, the American Academy of Family Physicians reports.
True or False: If I'm still urinating, I have nothing to worry about. False. It's a common misconception that heat exhaustion and heat stroke are only serious when the kidneys stop producing urine. Waiting for that to happen can be a deadly mistake. Instead, be on the lookout for the early warning signs -- dizziness, exhaustion, confusion, lack of appetite, headache, and, of course, excessive thirst.
True or False: Dry heat is better than humid heat. True, sort of. When sweating in a dry heat, the moisture on skin will evaporate and help cool the body. In humid air, it gathers on the skin and contributes to that sticky feeling. However, perspiring a lot in dry air still means you are losing a lot of fluid, and you need to replace it quickly.
True or False: If I feel like I'm about to pass out from the heat, I should find the nearest body of water and jump in. False. This may be tempting, but if you have any of the signs of heat stroke, don't try to self-treat. Get medical treatment. Heat stroke often causes neurological symptoms that lead to poor decisions.
True or False: Fans are the best way to stave off heat stroke. False. During a heat wave, fans alone won't typically provide enough cool air, especially for older adults and young children, whose thermo-regulation systems don't work as well in extreme temperatures. They need extra attention, and staying in an air-conditioned facility is safest.
True or False: Listening to the radio will make you smarter during a heat wave. True, at least according to one study, says the AAFP. It's thought that people who stay attuned to weather conditions via the radio, newspaper, television or Internet better understand the real risks of extremely hot weather.