Health Care Issues in Summer

The warm and dry summers that we are currently experiencing in Merritt are characteristic of the semi-desert climate of BC’s interior plateaus. It is sad to hear of the extreme heat alerts for back East, of children who have died from being left alone in hot cars, and of the great number of people who have died of heatstroke in England this summer.

According to Eastern medicine, heat is one of the six energies in nature:  wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness, and fire. It is naturally occurring, just like the changes of season. In fact, all beings need this source of heat to maintain life. With more hours of strong daylight, plants grow much faster and animals are warmed both externally and internally, making them more metabolically active. And humans are no exception. All our summer activities contribute to better, more active health and thus we find fewer people at health clinics during the summer as compared to the winter months.

However, we all know that too much of some things can actually be harmful, and this includes summer heat. One of the most common health concerns in the summer is heatstroke. Being exposed to long periods of sunlight can lead to dehydration and a build-up of internal heat in our bodies. This internal heat eventually accumulates in our brains which can cause the weak, such as seniors and children, to faint. One of the simplest solutions is to stay hydrated by drinking water and, if outside, keep cool by taking breaks in the shade.

If someone is unavoidably exposed to excessive heat and then feels overly hot and experiences blurry vision, cooling down is vital. Since heat is generated from within the body, we need to cool it down from the inside. Drinking cool water is good for this, though too much of it may increase dampness which then actually blocks heat from being discharged. It is also helpful to eat fruits and vegetables which are “cool” in nature, such as cucumber, melon, watermelon, strawberries, lettuce, buckwheat, and mung beans.

If body heat increases unaccompanied by sweating, this constitutes a real emergency. Drink cucumber juice immediately and take a fever-reducing remedy once. You can eat certain herbs found around you, such as plantain, the root of water plantain, the leaf or root of bamboo, the root of reeds, and the inside stem of common rushes. These herbs cool the body without increasing dampness.

On the other hand, staying in air conditioning or in front of a fan all day long, even if it is very hot outside, is also not good for health. These can cause the body to cool down but may also cause the dampness in our body to stagnate, possibly aggravating symptoms of old complaints, hindering blood circulation (even to the point of darkening skin colour), or causing headaches which may not respond to painkillers in severe cases.

In summertime the body should be warmer than in other seasons and proper sweating is the best “medication”.

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