May 31, 2022
Welcome to Entry #1 in our new Blog series: Crafting a Personalized Cooling Plan. Over the course of the next month we are diving into the science of how our bodies deal with heat, how different environments require different strategies for cooling, and the many strategies available to reduce the risk of heat. There will be many citations and charts and will be breaking it up into seven digestible posts, each with its own topic.
Below is an overview of what will be covered in more detail so you can improve your #heatIQ and know what to look forward to reading about in the coming weeks.
Next week, we will talk about why a Cooling Plan is Important. We will dive into the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and the long-term issues they can cause. We have all seen a bad chart like this before:
Great! We know what to do if we start getting symptoms, but other than drinking water and resting there is little talk about what can be done to prevent these issues in the first place. By having a good understanding of the information provided throughout this series you can prevent these issues from ever coming up.
Equally important to medical illness, and often overlooked, is the general discomfort heat can cause. The fatigue that can linger for days if we overdo it, and the lack of enjoyment in our activities when it's too hot out are equally bad for our well-being. This can and should be addressed with a cooling plan. In this series, we will strive to set up a framework so you can build a personalized cooling strategy, based on simple guidelines that don't require any extra thought. This way when the hot days come you are prepared with all the tools you need and the peace of mind to enjoy all the fun things summer has to offer.
In the 3rd Installment, we will go into detail on the Personal Factors that increase the risk of heat-related illness. This includes things like age, medical conditions, physical conditioning, medications, and many more. For instance, did you know that antidepressants and antihistamines, act on an area of the brain that controls the skin’s ability to make sweat? This affects your body's primary method of keeping cool and means that you should consider wet, evaporative cooling towels and/or cooling vests to help keep your body temperature at a safe level. Understanding your own body and its unique attributes will allow you to be ready for whatever life throws at you and have the tools you need the most ready at your disposal.
Next, we will talk about the environmental factors that affect heat stress. These include temperature, humidity, shade, and airflow. Most of us take into consideration temperature when planning out our day, but a recent unfortunate event in Brooklyn highlights the importance of taking into account ALL the environmental factors. During a half marathon, one runner died and fifteen were hospitalized with injuries linked to the heat. At the time of the injuries, the temperature was only around 70F but with 96% humidity, the risk of heat-related illness increases dramatically. Something it seems many people were not prepared for.
We will talk about all the factors that have an effect, both good and bad, and some general rules of thumb you can use to have a better idea of the feel of the weather than just the temperature. This will help you have a better understanding of your local weather report and be prepared for whatever activities you are participating in.
In the 5th Installment, we will go over the areas of a cooling plan that you have control over. These include the clothes you wear, how much you drink (water, not alcohol), your activity level, and cooling gear. NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health) has great recommendations for rest and work based on your activity level and we will use their workplace guidelines as a benchmark to apply to everyday life. For example, how does going on a day hike with my family compare to being a linesman for the local cable company and how can I use the abundance of data on workplace safety to help make plans for your day-to-day. We will also talk about the many variations of cooling gear available, whether that is wicking clothing, cooling towels, cooling vests, fans, and umbrellas.
In the Penultimate Installment, we will discuss in detail the advantages and disadvantages of different types of cooling equipment. How they work in different environments, their impacts on your body and its specific needs, and how they can be used together to create a better Cooling Plan. Going back to the Brooklyn marathon example, it is important to deeply understand how different cooling products work. In that environment with the temperature relatively low, but with extreme humidity, things like cooling towels and evaporative cooling vests offer no extra cooling and can actually increase your temperature as the water warms. In these extreme conditions, a cooling vest would work best as it provides direct cooling to your body without evaporation.
In the grand finale, we will explain our framework for building out a cooling plan. Using the information from all the other blogs in the series you can create your own rules of thumb and personalize a cooling plan for you. For instance here is a basic plan for myself. I am young, 35, and luckily not on any medications, so my personal risk is relatively low. However I do live in a relatively cold climate compared to most of the USA so if I travel anywhere, or we get an unusual heat wave, my acclimatization risk does increase pretty dramatically. I can also assume that the relative humidity in my area is high (around 70%) so I should add 5-10 degrees to the temperature every day and should plan on using some sort of cooling gear when the temperature is over 80F and using a cooling vest (since it doesn't lose effectiveness in high humidity) when temps are over 86F.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts over the coming months as this series rolls out and please let us know if you have any insight you want to add!
The ThermApparel Team
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