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How to Prevent and Fight Heatstroke in Japan

sweaty boy summer

Sponsored by Japan Weather Association

 

Let’s be honest: everyone who has ever endured summer months on mainland Japan cringe a bit when this time of year comes back around. Sure, there are so many fun activities to look forward to, but the humid heat makes the outdoors unbearable! This ever increasing heat can cause dangerous consequences like heatstroke if it’s not handled properly. But luckily, the Japanese have got this practice down and have invented great products and methods to fight against heatstroke. Before I introduce some must-try products (approved by me!), let’s start with the question: What exactly is heatstroke?

 

sweaty boy summer drinking water

 

Heatstroke, known as necchu-shyo (熱中症), is a medical emergency condition caused by failure of the body to regulate its temperature. Simply put, it’s the excessive overheating of one’s body that needs to be attended to as soon as possible. Heatstroke is more common than you might think. It can creep up on us, or happen very suddenly. But with the right knowledge, prevention, and treatment, we can all go on having a fun summer in Japan!

Causes of heatstroke include:

  • Exposure to high intensity heat and sunshine (possibly for a long period of time)
  • Not hydrating enough
  • Lack of rest while in heat
  • Not taking precautions and using methods to cool down the body
  • Note: heatstroke does not only happen outdoors. If a room is not kept cool on a hot day, it can cause heatstroke to those inside the overheated room. This is the leading cause for many elders in the summer.

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Dizziness or hot flashes: includes headaches and lightheadedness
  • Muscle pain and cramps
  • Listlessness and nausea: includes heat exhaustion, vomiting, and/or inability to urinate
  • Abnormal perspiration: either excessive or lack of sweating
  • High body temperature or abnormal skin condition: a body temperature higher than 40.6°C or 105.1 °F; red, overheated, or dry skin
  • Unresponsive, not being able to walk straight: mental confusion (disorientation) and inability to talk normally
  • Difficulty drinking: unable to hydrate oneself without help — but do not force water down one’s throat

Treatment of heatstroke:

  1. Move the person to a cool place: either in the shade with good ventilation, or ideally, indoors to an air-conditioned place.
  2. Cool the body down: remove excessive clothing, cool down the person’s neck, armpits, places of precipitation. Splash water and fan them using hand fans, or anything to act as such. Do not cover the person’s body with wet towels, as this can actually act as insulation and increase body temperature.
  3. Provide water and sodium: the ideal is a sports drink like Aquarius which has liquids and sodium. Do the best to have the person drink it on their own. Do not force it, especially if they are vomiting or unconscious.
  4. Let them rest and cool down, or call an ambulance if necessary

 

summer in japan

 

I hope I haven’t scared anyone with the realities of heatstroke! Don’t worry, here’s the fun part as I promised. Japan is full of useful (and sometimes even kawaii) products to fight heatstroke from ever even occurring. Below are some products that are tested and approved by me and many, many others. Trust me – I’m from America’s Pacific Northwest where we barely see this mythical thing called “sunlight” – I’m not a happy camper in heat whatsoever! But even I have gotten through summers in Japan, and so can you.

 

Must Try Products!

Sun umbrella: Do you ever wonder why many Japanese people hide under umbrellas when it’s not even raining? UV umbrellas aren’t as common overseas, but in a country like Japan where you do so much walking, it can be needed. After all, who doesn’t appreciate mobile shade wherever you go? It sure beats having to walk in the sun and to rest in shade too often! Special sun umbrellas can be found at some drug stores, department stores, and station malls. Look for a tag that reads “UV cut.”

Sun umbrella is useful in preventing sun from damaging our skin

 

Sea Breeze Cooling Wipes: I didn’t believe these at first until I gave them a try…these come in packages like regular wet wipes, but when you use it on your skin, it truly gives you a cooling effect! Some are scented which can help get rid of sweat and odor along with cooling down your body. I took these to a summer music festival and they saved my from being a sweaty miserable mess during the hot days! These can be found in any drug stores or convenient stores.

 

Cooling under shirts: It’s odd to think that wearing something could help cool you down, but Japan’s fabric advancements have made it possible. Many companies such as UNIQLO and Triumph sell tank tops and undershirts for men and women with the technology to cool you down built into the material. Triumph’s cooling line is available online and in department stores.

 

Hand fans sensu (扇子) and uchiwa (うちわ): Handheld fans can be a cute fashion statement and a great way to keep the breeze on you wherever you go. Commercial uchiwa (below) are often passed out for free at events or stores where there are promotions going on. Sensu are more traditional and can come in all price ranges depending on the quality. There are many with beautiful or funky designs, which make for great statements or even gifts for others. Sensu can be found anywhere from ¥100 stores to department stores like Loft.

Hand fans Uchiwa is the item to make comfortable wind toward you
Hand fans Uchiwa (うちわ)

 

A sensu and watermelon...both necessities for the summer
A sensu and watermelon…both necessities for the summer

 

Here are also some additional prevention tips for when you’re traveling, sightseeing, and spending time outdoors. Don’t let the heat ever ruin your fun!

 

Prevention for heatstroke:

  • Check the weather before heading out: don’t forget to wear the right clothes for the weather
  • Protect yourself from the sun: a hat or a sun umbrella creates some shade
  • Always carry around a healthy drink: water, tea, or a sports drink. Remember that alcohol will dehydrate you even more, so make sure to drink nonalcoholic beverages in between alcoholic ones.
  • Fight heat with heat: keeping the body warm can help regulate the body temperature. Take a hot bath once or twice a week (or visit a sento or onsen), eat ramen, or drink warm tea.
  • Eat summer favorites: watermelon, salted cucumber on a stick, and shaved ice kakigōri (かき氷) are all favorite summertime foods in Japan. The combination of the coldness and sodium helps prevent heatstroke.
  • Keep indoors at a comfortable cooled temperature: use a room fan senpuuki (扇風機)or the air-conditioner to cool down the room. Be sure not to cool it too much, as this will make it harder for the body to adjust when it does need to go outside, causing more problems later on.
  • Watch out for others: offer a sip, fan your friend, make sure to have each other’s back! Because what fun will going to a theme park or festival do if your friends or family aren’t there with you?

 

we coundn't spend summer without taking part in bon odori
Summer Bon Odori

VOYAPON supports the Heatstroke Zero Project for education and prevention of heatstroke disease. For more details, please check out the official website: Japanese, or in English

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