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Old 08-04-2011, 11:38 AM
Written By: Dr LeCrone
Default Coping With A Heat Wave Can Present Some Big Challenges

The heat wave covering much of the country can lead to both physical and psychological problems.

Examples of physical problems include heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration. Psychological problems associated with elongated heat and humidity includes difficulty to control anger, irritability, anxiety and depression.

Survival of prolonged heat and humidity requires adherence to adequate fluid intake and, when possible, timing outdoor activities to cooler times of the day. Other precautions include reducing the risk of skin damage by the use of protective lotion and outerwear such as hats.

Mental health professionals think a correlation exists between people working or living in high heat and humidity and their lower frustration tolerance, irritability and anger. Higher rates of violence also occur during heat waves.

One type of mood disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder happens during the winter months in about 10 percent of the population. Its counterpart, Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes referred to as Summer Depression, is less often experienced by people.

According to some estimates, only about 1 percent of the population suffers from RSAD, but for these individuals the symptoms are very real and may include anxiety, depression, irritability and agitation. Some professionals think RSAD symptoms may be related to heat rather than light.

Consultation with a mental health professional should be considered to diagnose and treat this condition.

Activities such as recreation and hobbies that help people deal with stress, including environmental stress, often have to be diverted, postponed or altered during periods of excessive heat. Try to find ways to modify activities and create options that enable you to continue with work and play in a healthier environment.

A walk in an air-conditioned mall is, for most of us, better than no walk at all. Or you may want to try strolling at dawn, when the heat is much more bearable.

Consider changing your work pattern to different hours. Beginning work at daybreak and stopping in the early afternoon is preferable to working through the mid- and late-afternoon heat. Consider postponing certain outdoor activities until cooler weather arrives.

Remember that hot summer is a limited time. Though it may feel like an endurance contest, at some point the weather will change. Knowing that enables us to embrace the old saying, “This, too, shall pass.”

Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2011

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