O&M Specialists are COOL!

by Dona Sauerburger, COMS

July 1999 Newsletter

Metropolitan Washington Orientation and Mobility Association


     Since our temperatures reached 103 degrees F. this month, you might enjoy some of the great information that was shared when Liz Camerlin asked the OandM listserv for ideas to stay cool while teaching O&M in the summer heat.  The ideas in this article were shared by Kartar Khalsa, Judy Morris, Dona Sauerburger, and Kathy Zelaya.



[As you might expect when all the contributors are all women, these ideas are for female O&Mers -- sorry, guys!  We’d love to print your ideas if you’ll send them in!]

     One O&Mer liked to keep cool with long cotton pants and short sleeve shirt.  Another enthused about long flowing skirts under a loose cotton T‑shirt, saying it made her feel coolest yet looked professional.  Some wear working shoes to protect the feet, others wear sandals, using powder to keep them dry.  One O&Mer keeps cool while driving by taking off her shoes and hanging her left leg out the window.



     One O&Mer suffered for years with headaches and nausea whenever she worked in the heat until she discovered that those were symptoms of dehydration.  Taking in enough fluids to replace the fluids we lose in sweat is the single most important factor in maintaining comfort and safety under these conditions.  

     To avoid these problems, be sure to drink plenty of water before and after each lesson, and encourage your students to do the same.

     Most people begin outdoor activities with a less than full fluid volume in their body. They don’t realize that thirst is not a good guide to the quantity of water needed by the body -- the older an individual is, the greater the water deficit must be before that individual becomes thirsty.

     The best guide to adequate fluid intake is adequate urine production.  If your urine is dark, you are not drinking enough. If you are drinking what you consider to be adequate, but are not urinating frequently, you are still not providing your body with adequate fluids.

     The guidelines are to drink at least 8‑12 ounces of fluid before you go outdoors. Drink every 20‑30 minutes while you are outdoors, even when you are not thirsty. Drink enough to urinate every 1‑2 hours.



     One contributor said that SPORTea is a great drink for fending off the effects of the heat. It is caffeine‑free and contains ginsing, ginger, Vitamin C and electrolytes. It can be obtained in health food stores and served iced with a sweetener; it is also served in Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean Stores.

     Another good drink is Pedialyte (we’re not sure of the spelling).  It assimilates easily into the bloodstream and is okay for adults and kids.


Other hints:

o       use an umbrella or parasol to shade from the sun -- it is amazing how much this reduces the effect of the heat!

o       keep the outside sessions short, with cool breaks between.  For example work outside for 20-40 minutes, then work or relax in cool indoors and drink fluids before going back outside.

o       have sessions early in the morning (the hottest time of the day seems to be around 2-3 o’clock; try to have all outdoor sessions finished before noon).

o       plan your vacation or report-writing sessions for the hottest times of the summer!


Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

     We all need to be alert to the symptoms and danger of heat exhaustion.  One O&Mer was having a lesson around 9 o’clock in a morning in May.  Her student was a 9-year-old girl who was overweight and whose gait and pace were laborious due to her cerebral palsy.  It was only 80 degrees, but the child overdid it in the 4 blocks they walked and suffered heat exhaustion.

     The child was red in the face, shaky and weak, and running a temperature of 104 by the time they got to the nurse's office. She recovered quickly with rest and water, but the nurse felt it best to send her home.  The O&Mer had worked with her for several months but was not aware of her intolerance for the heat.

     Heat exhaustion is characterized by an overwhelming feeling of tiredness, often accompanied by headache and nausea. Treatment consists of rehydration with fluids. It may be helpful to provide juices along with plain water to replace lost salts.

     Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim may suffer heat stroke.

     Heat strokes are life‑threatening. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.

     Symptoms of heat stroke include a fever as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit with hot dry skin, mental confusion and convulsions. Other signs include rapid pulse and heartbeat, dilated pupils, rapid and shallow breathing, either elevated or lowered blood pressure and unconsciousness.

     Heatstroke victims require immediate medical attention or hospitalization. If you are assisting someone with symptoms of heatstroke, experts advise that you call for help, and make an effort to lower the victim’s body temperature as quickly as possible while you are waiting.


Suggestions from the Red Cross:

     The American Red Cross gives this advice for heat waves, according to the Microsoft NBC Home page:

o       slow down. If you must engage in strenuous activity, do so during the coolest part of the day — usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

o       wear lightweight, light‑colored clothing.

o       drink plenty of water regularly and often.  Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which can be dehydrating.

o       eat small meals, and eat more often.


People at risk during the heat are people who:

o       are elderly

o       have chronic heart disease and other medical conditions

o       have chronic illness such as kidney or lung disease

o       are overweight

o       are under the influence of drugs or alcohol

o       take any of these medications: antipsychotics, tranquilizers, tricyclic antidepressants, sedating antihistamines, anti‑parkinsonian agents, over‑the‑counter sleeping pills or drugs for motion sickness


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