Weekly Feature

2018-07-11 / Editorial

Stay safe in sweltering summer heat

Bee Editorial

With the recent spate of hot weather and high humidity, and with Canal Fest on the horizon, it’s important to remember how to stay safe outdoors when the mercury climbs.

After all, extreme heat is the cause of more than 600 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths that are preventable if proper precautions are taken.

One important thing to note is that high humidity prevents sweat from evaporating quickly, meaning your body can’t cool itself fast enough in hot weather.

One obvious way to combat that phenomenon is to drink plenty of cold water, even when you’re not thirsty, but what you may not realize is that air conditioning can be a lifesaver when the heat strikes.

In fact, the CDC lists air conditioning as the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death, and therefore people who are at the highest risk of developing a heat-related illness — those 65 and older, younger than 2, and those with chronic diseases or mental illness — should seek the shelter of air-conditioned buildings or vehicles as often as possible.

Caregivers and guardians should also closely monitor those at high risk, make sure they have access to air conditioning and are drinking enough, and ask if they need help keeping cool.

For the rest of us, taking precautions is just as important, because even healthy people can get sick from the heat.

The CDC advises those who are active during high temperatures to limit outdoor activity, especially at midday, pace activity by starting slowly and increasing gradually, wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on packaging, and wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. The Red Cross agrees with these tips and also warns parents and animal lovers not to leave young children or pets alone in hot cars, which can quickly reach 120 degrees and be deadly.

So be safe out there, and if you see someone showing signs of heat exhaustion — cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness or exhaustion — or heat stroke — hot, red skin, dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting and high body temperature — help the person cool down by moving the individual to a cooler place, applying cold wet cloths or bags of ice to the skin, and spraying the person with cool or cold water. In the case of heat stroke, immediately call 911 or a local emergency number, and immerse the individual up to the neck in cold water, if possible.

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