Be smart and safe to beat the heat

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

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 to­treme­heat/warn­ing.html or www.nws.noaa. gov/os/heat/.

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