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How pre-hydrating keeps first responders cool during the summer

Decatur Fire and Rescue staff explain how they safely pre-hydrate during the summer months.

DECATUR, Ga. — Atlanta expects to reach heat in the triple digits come Wednesday, and with multiple heat advisories issued for parts of Georgia, people are finding new ways to beating the heat. 

One method that Georgia first responders use to keep cool is called pre-hydrating. It's known as a strategic way to hydrate one's body, especially before an event, medical professionals say.

Decatur Fire Station Fire Captain Gary Menard said pre-hydration is a crucial part of the crew's strategy to stay safe and hydrated during the summer months.

"We're often going to be in a situation where we're in danger of overheating," he said. "We're going to lose all that moisture, but we're not going to shed the heat that comes with that. So we have to make sure that we have hydrated in advance so that we have more to start with to lose."

So how does pre-hydration work?

Assistant Chief and Fire Marshall of Decatur Fire and Rescue Ninetta Violante said it is simply preparation.

“If you know you're going to be outside; if you know you're going to be in an atmosphere where you're going to be sweating just like anything else, you want to just take preparations for that," Violante said.

Preparation starts hours beforehand, the emergency officials explained.

Menard and Violante said that at least 20 oz. of water should be consumed two to three hours before going into the heat or doing any strenuous activity. 

Then the drinker should wait until 15 minutes before an activity and drink another 20 oz. of water - this process will help one stay cool and hydrated.

However, Violante said not everyone should automatically start pre-hydrating.  

“Obviously being hydrated is going to benefit everyone, but at the same time, you can have medical conditions where you need to be just more mindful of your consumption and the volume and how much and when," the chief said.

Drinking too much water can have adverse effects on the body if not done right. The pair said too much water can dilute your bloodstream and remove important minerals like sodium, therefore pre-hydration should also include a balance of electrolytes.

In addition, medications and preexisting health conditions could negatively impact the effects of pre-hydrating which is why Violante and Menard expressed that it is important to consult a doctor when thinking about using the technique. 

If pre-hydrating is not an option, they have other tips on how to stay cool in the summer. This includes using a T-shirt or towel soaked in wet water as a cooling agent, wearing light breathable clothes that allow heat to escape the body and finding shade or an air-conditioned facility if it gets too hot. 

"You want to make sure you take care of yourself and get out of the sun and get hydrated," Menard said. 

They also want to remind the public that the Decatur Fire Stations are considered cooling stations when heat advisories are issued.


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