In many ways extreme heat is a more devastating disaster than many of the well covered media disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes. Severe heat is a more subtle threat since it won’t blow off your roof or flood your basement. As temperatures continue to rise this summer across the U.S, planning for extreme heat and remaining healthy and cool are important to your comfort and personal well being. Heat takes a toll on your body and mind and can be so dangerous precisely because of this slow encroaching physical and mental effect. Dehydration can come on quickly and heat exhaustion is very common while spending time working or recreating in high temperatures and direct sun. Remaining aware of conditions and taking some basic precautions this summer will help you stay safe and better cope with consistently high temperatures over the next few months.
The single most important thing you can do to stay cool this summer is to keep your home cool. If you have a swamp cooler, central air, or window air conditioning unit, be sure that they are in good working condition and set them at a comfortable temperature, but a temperature that also keeps your monthly power bill at a reasonable level.
Keeping your home at a comfortable cool as a reprieve to the scorching air outside is better than a frigid cold that runs up your power bill and strains your cooling unit. Beyond personal comfort, there are practical and health reasons to keep your home cool in hot outdoor temperatures. Keeping children, the elderly, and pets from overheating is very important.
Keeping your home cool will also help the refrigerator and freezer from straining to cool food as the indoor house temperature will be lower. You’ll also feel less miserable about using the stove and oven for cooking when the indoor temperature isn’t 90 degrees.
During the hottest days of summer, you will need to limit your outdoor activity–if possible–to the cooler mornings and later evenings to prevent overheating. Exercise and yard work should be done either early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is lower in the sky and the air is cooler.
In direct sun and high heat, dehydration and heat exhaustion can set in within minutes, so you should take every opportunity to stay indoors and cool during the hottest times of day.
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When working or recreating outdoors, however, always remain hydrated and take frequent breaks to conserve energy and avoid overheating.
Know the warning signs for excessive heat exposure and understand how to address and treat heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. These conditions are very common during periods of high temperatures and exposure to constant sun. Though more likely to occur in the elderly, sick, and young, anyone can be a victim of heat exhaustion or, worse, heat stroke. Those who work outdoors or exert themselves during very hot times of day are also highly vulnerable. Muscle cramps, heavy sweating, headaches, cool skin, weak pulse, dizziness, and nausea are all symptoms of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is considerably more severe but many of the symptoms are the same. Above all, heat stroke is often characterized by an altered mental state, confusion, a rapid pulse, and a very high body temperature.
This can be deadly, so know the signs, monitor yourself and others, and make efforts to keep these conditions from occurring in the first place by keeping cool, hydrated, and out of direct sun.