. . .But when the thermometer goes way up and the weather is sizzling hot
For his Madam
Is not . . .
- Cole Porter in "Too Darn Hot" from "Kiss Me Kate."
They used to say about the weather here, if you don't like it, wait a minute.
Of course they were referring to the notoriously capricious nature of what passes for climate in this area. And it got to be something of a cliche.
It may have been a bum rap, too, but it's not far off the mark when you're talking about the way you feel about the weather, physiologically speaking.
According to Dr. Richard A. Kenney, an environmental physiologist and chairman of the George Washington University Medical School Physiology Department, it takes the human machine just three weeks - with some individual variations - to adjust to a new climate.
And with our indoor temperatures now near the 80-degree mark, we are, in effect, having to adjust to a new climate.
"Jumping from cold house to cold car to cold office," says Kenney, never gave the body a chance to get acclimated to summer. Now, all of a sudden, lots of us are confronted with summer, day and night, indoors and out, for the first time in years, and if you don't like it . . . well, give your body a chance. In almost no time at all, promises Kenney, you'll learn to love it. Or live with it, anyway.
Although some authorities poo-poo any definite correlation between high temperatures and violent actions, Kenney is not so sure. It all depends, yep, you guessed it, on the humidity.
"The hot, dry environment seems to produce irritable and aggressive behavior," Kenney says, while people subjected to heat and high humidity, as in the middle Atlantic region this week, become "depressed and withdrawn," rather than violent. Item: More violence on gas lines where the weather was hot and dry.
So if Cole Porter's Mr. Adam was in California sduring a hot, dry spell the lyric could have implied a hot and heavy domestic fight. If they'd been here this week they'd probably just be crying.
It's harder for the human animal to keep comfortable when the humidity is soaring simply because of sweat, ironically, the mainstay of the human machine's natural coolant system.
When it's hot and dry, perspiration evaporates and in so doing cools a person. When the humidity is high, the sweat can't evaporate. The skin is still warm, though, so they body produces even more sweat - but without giving any relief and causing a greater loss of fluid.
For most people, a few simple steps can ease the transition into acclimatization, says Kenney. For example:
Wear light, loose clothing.
Encourage the movement of air - even the slightest breeze is a help.
Know enough to come in out of the sun - or find a shady spot. "The radiation load in the summer sun is enormous," says Kenney.
Eat nutritionally balanced meals, and, probably most important, drink a lot of liquids. Repeat: A lot of liquids .
"The problems we encounter with heat," remarks Kenney in clipped British tones, "turn chiefly on loss of water."
It's easy, he says, to become dehydrated without noticing it. The sensation of thirst comes from the concentration of fluids rather than the amount.
If you walk in hot weather you will lose between a pint to a quart of water an hour. Someone more active can lose as much as half a gallon in an hour, with sometimes dire results. "You saw Sunday on Kennedy Street what can happen," said Kenney, recalling Victor Pecci's leg cramps at last week's tennis tournament.
It is true, Kenney notes, that you also lose salts when you perspire a great deal. But taking salt tablets, he warns, may not be the best way to counter the loss, and, in some cases, they can be harmful, upsetting the balance of electrolytes, affecting blood pressure, for example. A proper diet, he says, outh to provide enough salt, about a half-ounce or so a day.
Along with water, you will tend to also lose some vitamins - the B-group and vitamin C, which are water soluble, so a hot-weather diet should be high in these as well. (Bran cereals are a good source for the B group and the currently abundant tomatoes and citrus fruits for C.)
People who collapse from the heat are usually dehydrated or have lost salts (usually because they haven't been eating) or both. The loss of salts or electrolytes, can also produce the kind of cramping Pecci suffered. This condition, known as heat exhaustion, usually passes quickly with liquids and rest. Body temperature does not become elevated, and the person is usually perspiring heavily.
Occasionally, usually after heavy exertion under conditions of high temperatures and high humidity, the body's thermostatic control breaks down and body temperatures soars to dangerous levels. There is usually no perspiration at all and the victim's skin feels very dry and very hot. This is sometimes called heat stroke or, misleadingly, sunstroke, but in any case it is a serious medical emergency and the victim should be taken to a doctor or hospital emergency room as soon as possible.
As a general rule, non-alcoholic liquids should be forced in the summer-time, much as you would to a child with a fever. Asked about the quenching qualities of the commercial drink, Gatorade, Kenney laughed. "I call it orange-flavored sweat," (because its electrolytic content matches that of perspiration). "Whoever had the idea of bottled sweat deserves whatever he makes from it."
The average person should weather the weather without mishap, but there are some who are more vulnerable to the caprices of weather and oil sheiks:
Young Children - They generate more heat and have a smaller body surface from which perspiration can be evaporated so they are subject to higher body temperatures and can suffer more from hot and humid weather.
The elderly - Aging can cause de-generation of sweat glands. "There is a very strong possibility," says Kenney, that with the loss of salts the "heart is unable to keep up the flow of blood to the vessels, especially when there is a great demand." This can cause pain and cramping in muscles and could put a fatal strain on an aging or damaged heart.
Those with heart or circulatory ailments - Extra caution should be taken in hot weather.
How will you know if you've become accustomed to the climate? For one thing, Kenney says, you'll perspire at a lower temperature and more profusely than before.
Pigs sweat, the old saying goes, men perspire, and women, well, women Glow . Whichever . . . it will seem to be no time at all before we're hearing all about the dangers of shoveling snow. CAPTION: Picture, no caption