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50+: Live Better, Longer

Surviving Summer Scorchers

Can't take the heat? Many people can't, and too often they end up in the hospital.
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Cramps, Exhaustion, Bad Mood continued...

Oppressive heat hurts more than the body. If you have to spend a lot of time in the heat, you're likely to get crabby. "It does affect the emotions," says Arthur Bachrach, a psychologist and spokesman for the American Psychological Association.

Road rage is one example of how heat may affect your psyche -- which is no surprise if you've ever crept along in freeway traffic on a sweltering day. "Road rage is at least in part a function of heat stress," Bachrach says.

Heat also makes you feel apathetic and dulls your concentration, which can hurt your work performance and lead to accidents. The National Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NOSHA) takes heat seriously. Of course, tarring a roof in August is nastier business than it is in April, but many Americans work in hot environments year-round -- in laundries, mines, foundries, and steam tunnels, to name a few.

NOSHA recommends that workers gradually expose themselves to heat, so they can acclimate. They should also have a cool place to rest -- where the temperature is about 76 degrees -- and drink five to seven ounces of water every 15-20 minutes, or two to three gallons a day.

The same precautions against heat sickness apply at home and about town. Drink a lot of water, wear lightweight clothing, and never, ever leave a child locked in a car.

Stay in the shade when you can, and use air conditioning whenever possible. If you don't have air-conditioning in your home or car, go someplace that does before you overheat: Catch a movie, stroll around the mall, or linger a while over the ice-cream selection in a grocery freezer. You don't want to take a trip to the ER just because you thought you could take the heat.

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Reviewed on July 15, 2002

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