By Dr. Jen Milus
August is the hottest month, and Fire/EMS professionals need to work in the heat without it compromising effectiveness. Add a fire to an already overheated time of year, and the possibility of heat exhaustion/dehydration is even more likely. Sweating causes the loss of electrolytes, and can lead to fatigue, injury and reduced job performance. That can be very dangerous for Fire/EMS folks.
Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate) are the charged ions that help the body sustain exercise/muscle contraction. These chemical components that can run in short supply under hot conditions can be replaced in some very simple ways. I will outline four quick, easy, inexpensive ways to keep electrolytes in balance this month in the heat.
1. Salt your food. Unless you have a heart or hypertensive issue, make sure you salt your meals when working in the heat.
2. Drink 8 glasses of water per day.
3. Add potassium to your diet. Great sources include: Cantaloupe, oranges, bananas, and sweet potatoes. Eat 2 per day: say ½ a cantaloupe and 1 sweet potato. Or 1 orange and 1 banana.
4. Add bicarbonate. This won't taste good. Get over it. We are adults. Consider it fuel. Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to a bottle of carbonated water (like Calistoga water). Replace the lid, turn it over and back. Sip during your workout or instead of one of your 8 glasses.
Repeat, repeat, repeat…