Be smart and safe to beat the heat
Maryland summers are hot. And Southern Maryland in July, amid scorching temperatures and a sweltering, humid atmosphere, can sometimes feel like the earth is melting.
The National Weather Service reports heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the country. Hundreds of people die from the heat and heat-related illnesses each year.
But every single one of these deaths is easily preventable — if you take the proper precautions.
At job sites, the NWS recommends those who make their living outside stay hydrated and take breaks in the shade as often as possible. Whether working or playing outdoors, keep all strenuous activity to a minimum. This may mean switching up the normal jogging routine to early morning or evening hours or spending more time in the air-conditioned gym instead.
Those of you who are young and healthy or are fortunate enough to live and work in an air-conditioned place should make it a priority to check up on elderly or sick neighbors or relatives and those without AC, particularly on those hottest of days when even a short walk from the house to the car can seem brutal.
And probably most important: Never leave kids or pets unattended in a hot car.
According to the NWS, a dark dashboard or seat can quickly reach temperatures ranging from 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. In just over two minutes, a car can heat up from a safe temperature to an unsafe temperature well above 90 degrees. These conditions can lead to hyperthermia, which is the body’s inability to handle the amount of heat it absorbs. Hyperthermia can happen even on milder days when temperatures are in the 70s, and leaving the windows cracked open has not been proven to decrease the rate at which the car’s temperature rises.
You’d think this is common sense and we should all understand these risks by now. But alarmingly, a study conducted by San Jose State University found that over the course of the past 20 years, the number of child vehicular heatstroke deaths in the U.S. has oscillated somewhere around the 30 to 35 fatalities-per-year range. The highest recorded number in the study is 49 child deaths in 2010. That figure dropped to 24 in 2015 but jumped again to 39 last year.
The truth is we’re not always as careful as we could be when dealing with the heat. Often, a quick errand can stretch into a slower one, while a dog or child waits patiently outside in a hot car. We don’t want to lose track of time when every second counts, and the best way to ensure that doesn’t happen is not to do it. Take the extra few minutes to unbuckle a little one from their car seat and bring them inside with you, and leave the dog at home.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a list of warning signs to look for that may indicate you are or someone you know is suffering from a heat-related illness. Often, muscle cramping is the first indicator.
Other indicators of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, fainting, nausea or vomiting, a fast and weak pulse and cold, pale or clammy skin. If you experience any of these symptoms, the CDC advises moving to a cooler location, lying down and loosening clothing, applying a cold, wet cloth to your skin, sipping water and seeking medical attention if vomiting doesn’t stop.
Indicators of heatstroke include a high body temperature (above 103 degrees), a rapid and strong pulse, possible unconsciousness and hot, red, dry or even moist skin. Call 911 immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
For more information about beating the heat safely and smartly this summer, go to www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning.html or www.nws.noaa. gov/os/heat/.