COPING WITH FLORIDA’S HEAT
Don’t let summer’s blazing temperatures spoil your fun. Heed the advice of these health experts to stay safe
Southwest Florida summers are more than the months marked on calendars. Summer weather marches into the area when Northerners still wear jackets, and it lingers long, seemingly forever, gripping us in a sweaty bear hug and refusing to let go. There are two ways to mark seasons: meteorologically and astronomically. Meteorological summer is June 1 to Aug. 31. Astronomical summer is the one on the calendar, from June 21 to Sept. 22.
Neither definition gives justice to the region’s interminable summers. The average high temperature in Fort Myers is 90 or higher from May 18 through Sept. 24, according to intellicast.com. Heck, the average Fort Myers low doesn’t dip below 70 degrees from May 22 through Oct. 11.
Southwest Florida residents and visitors should take the heat and humidity seriously, according to health experts. Dr. Brian Schultz is a pediatric emergency room physician at the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. He knows about the relentless heat and its dangers. He says he doesn’t see many cases of heat exhaustion, but he uses each case as a teaching moment. Schultz emphasizes the importance of hydration, which means drinking plenty of fluids for athletes or anybody else staying outside for work or pleasure.
Providing ample water for athletes wasn’t always the case. In 1954, football coach Bear Bryant ran a brutal Texas A&M University football camp. A blogger named Kelly Lytle quoted from author Jim Dent’s The Junction Boys, a 1999 book about that camp.
“Bryant believed the fastest way to whip a team into shape was to deny the boys water, even in the brutal heat,” Dent wrote.
That is no longer common practice in sports. “The mentality that you don’t get a water break until you deserve it has passed by,” Schultz says. He used the term “exertional heat stroke” to describe what happens by playing sports or working out in heat. “It’s a spectrum of illnesses,” Schultz stresses.
Parents of children showing symptoms like not sweating or sweating too much or appearing disoriented shouldn’t take long to act. “I would call 9-1-1 immediately,” Schultz says. “And get the kid out of the heat and start the cooling process immediately.” Symptoms should be taken seriously. As floridahealth.gov notes: “Heat exhaustion is often considered a warning of impending heat stroke, and if untreated, heat exhaustion typically turns into heat stroke.”
Schultz says he has seen a case where a patient’s body temperature reached 114.
“They were immediately cooled, and their outcome was good,” he says.
Mark Tesoro is an analyst, health educator and injury prevention specialist at Lee Health. He also knows about the heat and its dangers. “Dehydration turns very quickly into heat exhaustion,” Tesoro says. He urges people to drink water before, during and after sporting events. If an athlete isn’t hydrated, Tesoro knows what can happen. “Bad things happen quickly,” he says. That leads to situations where, he adds, “your body starts to shut down very quickly.”
Florida’s scorching summers are not to be trifled with by young or old, and heeding the advice of the experts will make your dog days more enjoyable and most importantly safe.
Heat exhaustion is often considered a warning of impending heat stroke, and if untreated, heat exhaustion typically turns into heat stroke. —floridahealth.gov