Surviving the dog days of summer

During the dog days of summer, the star Sirius appears as the brightest in the night sky, part of the Canis Major (Big Dog) constellation. It is sultry and sweltering hot, because now earth tilts more directly towards the sun than at any other time of year. You probably feel lethargic, even snarly. Your body goes into overdrive in an attempt to stay cool.

Blood vessels enlarge to transport hot blood away from your core. You sweat. As the sweat evaporates, it cools your skin and surface blood, and this cooled blood then flows back to your internal organs. You can give your body a cooling hand by wearing light weight light-colored clothes (preferably white natural fabrics that breathe (cotton). As the air dries sweat from the fabric, it cools you further. If you look at Camden Historical Society pictures, taken in summer, parks are filled with people wearing white long-sleeved clothing and (natural) straw hats, cooling under shade trees and enjoying picnics. No need to sit inside in the cellar then, or in air conditioning now, if you have it.

Get out or you will catch the summer equivalent of cabin fever. If you exercise, don’t overexert. Your muscles are working hard to get oxygen from the cooled blood. Your heart is doing double duty, circulating blood throughout your system. Don’t push it, and take special care of the very young, the very old and your pets. Heat stroke can be deadly.

If you are a walker, take it down to a stroll. When driving, avoid the heat-retaining interstates, in favor of shady neighborhood streets. Eat small amounts of light, watery foods several times a day. Your body works harder to break down three big meals of animal protein, so selects salads, not burgers. Stay hydrated to replace water lost by sweating. Avoid caffeine, it zaps water.

Even just a two percent loss of your body sweat affects the brain and can alter mood. You may be irritable and have difficulty making decisions or feel “foggy.” And you may be sleep deprived because your body takes longer to cool and to start the sleep cycle needed for proper rest and mood. So take care of yourself during the dog days of summer.

If you have a canine pal, remember these furry creatures heat up quickly and cool off slowly, and can only cool off by panting or a little bit of sweating through the paws. Also, most dogs are sprinters, not long distance endurance runners. If jogging, go easy with short early runs and plenty of water. Never leave your dog in the car. Even if it’s 70 degrees and your windows are cracked, it can quickly heat inside to 100 degrees and cause death. Know the signs of heat stroke (dizziness, disorientation, excessive panting, vomiting, diaherria) and keep up-to-date on first aid for both pets and animals.

Have a great rest of summer, and share your strategy for staying cool with let us. Sleep on frozen sheets? Drink chrysanthemum tea like the British? Float endlessly in Camden’s new natural swimming pool?