This post is about the heat, not the Heat. If you are into professional basketball you might think this post title is referring to the current NBA championship match-up between The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks. I'm the adult half of Family Wilds from Texas, so it would be fair to assume this post is about the Mavs being down to the Heat 2 games to 1, and as I type, down by 2 at the half in game 4. The truth is, I'm a lifelong and dearly devoted San Antonio Spurs fan, so this post has nothing to do with basketball...except for this entire first paragraph. Go Spurs!
Our high temperatures in Nashville are hovering in the 90s and the humidity is pretty thick. It's not the temperature/humidity combination we get back in Texas or Florida (my wife is from Florida, and no, she's not a Miami Heat fan), however, it's pretty rough. This is especially true when you have a family that loves to be outdoors, and a member of that family is 15-months old. When I was a much younger man I was always very proud of being able to beat the heat. Beating the heat meant that I would recklessly subject my body to anything I wanted to do regardless of the potential dangers. Beating the heat was a challenge; a dumb one, but it was a challenge I would often accept blindly.
A baby can open your eyes really quickly. Our family's new summer challenge is not being beat by the heat. Here are a few general rules we follow when planning our outside time in the hot summer months, which mirror recommendations made by the National Weather Service. We highly recommend reading everything on that page, and on this one from the American Red Cross.
These are our opinions based in the research we have conducted for our family; we do not expect anyone else to do as we do, and we don't even recommend people do exactly as we do. Everyone has differing tolerance and comfort levels. Please check with your doctor and conduct further research so you can make the most informed decisions for yourself and/or your family.
1) We eat and drink appropriately. We do not eat a lot of heavy proteins before outdoor time (they increase metabolic heat production and can cause water loss), and we drink plenty of water before, during, and after. We make sure we never take water with us that is too cold; this can cause stomach cramping. I prefer leaving the house with cool or room temperature water, especially with outdoor activities. Also, we do not drink caffeine or alcohol.
2) We get out in the early morning or late evening when we know the temperatures will be lower and manageable for longer periods of time. We limit our consecutive outdoor hours as appropriate. Often we're back home from a morning hike and/or swim by 10:30 or 11:00 AM. Temperatures can rise really quickly and lower really slowly often times, so we don't take norms for granted. Norms always have ranges and outliers, so we strive to stay vigilant of current conditions
3) We try to go places that have an abundance of shade and places to rest.
4) We dress appropriately (light-weight, light-colored, loose clothing). We really like to use clothing as sun protection when possible (long-sleeve shirts, pants). If it is too hot though, we dress accordingly, go places we know will be well shaded, and keep the mineral-based sunscreen handy.
4b) Our daughter wears cloth diapers, so we make sure to change her frequently while we're out to avoid heat related diaper rash.
5) We never try to be heroes. I played in a soccer game this weekend, which had a game time heat index of over 100 degrees. The humidity made it all the more brutal. I asked some of our Facebook followers for some advice, and they provided great ideas like drinking plenty of water, using ice to keep cool, eating foods with high water content before hand, and bananas (check out this blog post one of those followers wrote on this topic). I did almost all of those. For all intents and purposes I was well prepared. This last rule was the most important for me on that day. I love competitive soccer and basketball. It's fun! I hate sitting on the sidelines watching others play, but it was so hot outside it would have been reckless of me to not take plenty of breaks. I did, and I felt fine during and after the game. I even had some juice left for a game on the next day. Don't be a hero.
So far, we've been successful in not being beat by these hot temperatures, and we're pretty sure we'll have an undefeated summer season. We have a cohesive team with a good defensive strategy that we're comfortable with, and we know our strengths, limits, and gear. We're not looking forward to the continued heat, but we are really looking forward to the summer. How do you make sure your family isn't beat by the heat?