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Posted on / Dr. Susan Wilder

Keeping Our Cool (In a Heating World)

No doubt this blistering record-breaking summer world-wide is an uncomfortable harbinger of years to come. Although fluctuations will occur from season to season and year to year, the trend is impossible to ignore.

Unless highly acclimated, our bodies begin to break down at a wet bulb temp over 95 degrees (reached at ~130 degrees in very low humidity or ~109 at 50% humidity). Fortunately, we in Arizona are blessed with dry desert conditions, air-conditioning and pools help us keep our cool.

None are immune to climate-related health consequences including escalating heat waves, power outages, fires, severe weather events, and intense local precipitation, not to mention increased mosquito borne disease, longer more severe allergy seasons, and air pollution triggering lung disease and heart attack/stroke risk.

An infographic describing the health impact of climate change. This includes heat, severe weather, air pollution, vector-borne diseases, allergies, water-borne diseases, environmental refugees, mental health, and effects on water and food supplies.

Protecting children and the elderly is key as they are most vulnerable. Many medical conditions (check with your provider) and medications impair our ability to safely regulate temperature. Be extra careful if taking:

  • Antihistamines & decongestants
  • Bladder control medications such as Detrol and Ditropan
  • Stimulants for attention deficit disorder and caffeine
  • Blood pressure medications – diuretics & beta blockers (Metoprolol, Propranolol etc)
  • Psychiatric medications including Elavil, Trazodone, or antipsychotics like Quetiapine
  • Parkinson’s disease and medications for the same conditions

Critical Preventive Strategies

  • HYDRATE – front load with 16oz of filtered water on waking, BEFORE any caffeine; consume at least 80 oz daily + more if working out or spending time in heat; keep a stainless steel or glass water bottle filled with you at all times.
  • ELECTROLYTES – Eating a plant-based diet helps balance electrolytes. Consider a high sodium supplement like LMNT or a pinch of salt before intensive work or exercise in the heat; a low sodium supplement like NUUN is best for those who need to limit sodium.
  • ACCLIMATE gradually to heat and work outside of peak hours if you must work outside.
  • STAY in a COOL environment during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Consider investing in solar energy, water conserving xeriscaping, creating a Firewise defensible space to mitigate fire risk, maintain your A/C systems, and store extra water in case of emergency.
  • CHECK ON EACH OTHER – particularly our elderly neighbors and relatives, assure access to cooling centers if power fails.

Be Alert to Signs of Heat Intolerance

Tune into signs of heat intolerance including:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Flushed skin

When these signs appear, immediately go indoors and cool off as soon as possible. Remove excess clothing, take sips of cool water, and use cool compresses and fans or ice packs in armpits/ groin to cool down. Call 911 if not improving within a few minutes.

With temperatures continuing to rise for the indefinite future, it’s important we take steps to protect ourselves and others.


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