Living in a place where Satan would wear an umbrella hat and a fanny-pack full of Blue Ice, I'm proud that I made it as long as I did without suffering heat exhaustion.
Last Thursday, in between chukkers of a polo match (a sport I am learning to play because I used to enjoy riding horses, and also because I am a pretentious jerk), I climbed off the horse, and my legs weren't responding properly. Instead of bone and muscle, they seemed to be made of dried globs of hot glue. Then the muscles between my shoulder blades crumpled and my vision clouded black. Everything sounded very distant, like we were all underwater. I noticed I couldn't breathe and thought groggily, "I bet this is what it feels like when you drown."
Another player gave me water and instructed me cool off in his truck, an offer I nearly declined because I would rather pass out and die than be responsible for hurling in someone's Hummer. Eventually, the left side of my head stopped feeling heavier than the right, and I could see well enough to drive home (where I threw up in the shower).
Had I known there were ways to prevent or relieve heat exhaustion (besides drinking water and avoiding the outdoors, what do I keep telling you?) through food, I probably could have had a healthier, more refreshing meal and avoided the whole scenario. Have you ever tried to wash a shower curtain? Don't. Just buy a new one.
Buttermilk with fresh curds This is a home remedy, and I hate those. But buttermilk is a cooling agent and has a load of healthy junk in it, like calcium, protein, assorted "good bacteria" and riboflavin, so it's not a terrible idea. But that thing about drinking curd-laden milk in the afternoon sun makes me want to vomit myself to death.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol My mom never directly told me that alcohol causes dehydration, but she wouldn't let me drink coffee on days I planned to be outside (ew, talk about dark days) because it was supposed to dry out my system.
Yet, a 2000 study by the University of Nebraska Medical Center found no dramatic difference in hydration levels in athletes who drank equal amounts of several caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks. However science is supposed to work, it generally agrees that avoiding caffeine and alcohol is best before outside activity. Both have been considered diuretics, and it's hard to maintain healthy hydration levels if you're constantly peeing. It's also hard to ride a horse drunk.
Mango, pineapple, oranges, watermelon, cucumber, etc. These fruits have a high water content and can replace the water lost through sweating (or peeing). They're also cool, refreshing and light. Goofus eats a pan of lasagna before going outside. Gallant eats a wedge of watermelon. Guess who wins.
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Healthy protein and fats Eating healthy servings of proteins and fats -- eggs, lean mean, nuts and healthy oils -- will help maintain a steady blood sugar level.
Onion I've read things that say to eat raw onion, add onion to your food or rub onion on your hands and behind your ears to relieve heat exhaustion. Wouldn't the onions make you cry and lose more water? Besides the hydration content in onions, I don't see the benefit. But if Gatorade isn't working and you don't have health insurance, it might be worth a shot.
Clearly, these are all at-home remedies that aim to restore lost water and cool you off. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious ailments that could lead to permanent damage. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, stop rubbing them with onions and mangos and get them to the hospital.