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Prairie Fare: Stay Hydrated and Avoid Overheating During Hot Summer Months

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
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In a worst case, you can go beyond overheating and suffer a heat stroke as a result of overexertion in hot, humid weather.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“You’d better come inside. You look sunburned,” my husband commented.

“I’m just going to finish planting a couple of things, and then I’ll be done,” I replied.

I was wearing sunscreen, and I wasn’t feeling really warm, either. In fact, I almost felt a little chilled. The day was very hot and humid, but I was on a mission to finish my yardwork. As I arose from planting the last seeds in the hot, black soil, I suddenly felt weak, dizzy and nauseated. I clumsily stumbled over the fence around our garden and reached for my water bottle. I wasn’t feeling very thirsty.

I recognized these symptoms, so I left my gardening tools behind to enter the cool environment of our home. When I looked in a mirror, my face was as red as the radishes that would grow eventually.

I finally cooled off with the help of a shower and lots of beverages. I learned that I didn’t have a sunburn; I was overheated.

Fortunately, there was just one casualty from my overzealous gardening. I survived, but a pepper plant didn’t make it.

I drank a lot of water and some cold milk, too, because I know that milk acts like a sports beverage to replace electrolytes lost through perspiration.

I generally don’t put myself in peril to have a topic for my column, but I thought I would share the lesson I learned by accident. Overheating can occur fairly quickly, especially among those of us who aren’t acclimated yet to hot, humid summer weather.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700 people die every year due to heat-related illnesses. People most at risk are infants and young children, older adults and people on certain kinds of medications.

In a worst case, you can go beyond overheating and suffer a heat stroke as a result of overexertion in hot, humid weather. Heat stroke can result in unconsciousness, hallucinations, confusion, coma and, potentially, death. Your heart, liver or kidneys can suffer permanent damage.

Stay inside an air-conditioned space when the weather is very hot (often between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.) or take regular breaks inside a cool location. You can cool down with baths, showers or even a sprinkler.

Staying hydrated is critical during the hot summer months, as is avoiding strenuous activities during the hot hours of the day. I should have been planting early in the morning before the day temperatures climbed, but I turned off my alarm clock that morning.

In most cases, the best hydrating fluid is plain, cold water, but all water in food and beverages counts toward hydration. Most men need 13 cups of fluid from beverages and food per day, while women need about 9 cups.

Beat the summer heat. Consider these beverage tips based on messages from

  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks when you’re thirsty. Regular soda pop, sports drinks and other sweetened beverages provide more calories than most people need.
  • Pay attention to your thirst. Everyone’s needs are different, but most of us get enough water from the foods we eat and the beverages we drink. Drink plenty of water if you are very active, live or work in hot conditions or are an older adult.
  • If you are a parent of young children, remember that they can’t always tell you they are thirsty, so provide fluid regularly.
  • Make water, low-fat or fat-free milk or 100 percent juice an easy option in your home. Have reusable ready-to-go containers filled with water or healthful drinks available in your refrigerator.
  • When water just won’t do, enjoy the beverage of your choice but cut back. Select smaller cans, cups or glasses instead of large options.

Here’s a recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health. Quench your thirst on a hot summer day with this tasty beverage inspired by tropical locations. For more recipes and tips, visit

Summer Breeze Smoothie

1 c. plain, nonfat yogurt (or substitute nonfat vanilla yogurt)

6 strawberries (fresh or frozen)

1 c. crushed pineapple (canned, packed in juice)

1 banana

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve in a frosted glass.

Makes three servings. Each serving has 130 calories, 0 grams (g) of fat, 30 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber, 4 g of protein and 45 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – June 21, 2012

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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