One thing we discussed in quite some detail during our first aid session for hikers (see my post yesterday) was the prevention of heat strokes. Because once it happens, it’s often too late to stop and it can be a very dangerous, life-threatening situation. It occurs when a person becomes dehydrated and their body temperature rises above 40.5 degrees Celsius.
So what should you do?
- Wear loosefitting, lightweight clothing. Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won’t allow your body to cool properly. Also ensure to wear light-colored clothing if you’re in the sun to reflect the sun’s rays. Keep your head covered
- Drink plenty of fluids. You should carry at least 3-4 litres if you go hiking in Hong Kong during the hot summer months – and make sure to carry mineral water, not distilled water. Sport drinks can be useful to replenish your electrolytes (including sodium) but some contain a lot of sugar (e.g. Pocari Sweat) so I would not recommend them. Also do not drink beverages that contain too much caffeine (e.g. coffee and tea) or alcohol before or during the hike
- Take salt crackers with you – you’ll need the salt for your body. Even better, take oral rehydration salt. You can buy this at Watson’s pharmacy, you just dissolve it in water and drink it, so your body can replenish the missing electrolytes
- Take extra precautions with certain medications. Be on the lookout for heat-related problems if you take medications that can affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat
- Take it easy during the hottest parts of the day. If you can’t avoid strenuous activity in hot weather, follow the same precautions and rest frequently in a cool spot. Try to schedule exercise for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening (that’s why I like night hikes). Taking breaks and replenishing your fluids during that time will help your body regulate your temperature
And one important note for hikers in Hong Kong: don’t buy the green Watson water. It’s distilled, so there are no minerals left. It’s really bad for you, as it will take mineral salts out of your body. Normally, you can replenish the electrolytes by eating snacks, but if you are hiking in the hills here for several hours on a sticky summer’s day, the distilled water will exacerbate your mineral loss.