Beat the Heat This Summer
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22 ESV
As I write this, we are going through a June heatwave. I always tell myself in January that I won’t complain about the heat during the summer. But guess what? I usually do. There are a lot of popular songs out there about summer and it being hot. Many of them come to mind for me as I am trying to stay comfortable during this hot weather. The last few days, I can’t get the first lines from the Santana hit “Smooth” out of my mind, “Man, it’s a hot one; Like seven inches from the midday sun”. It has felt like that several days over the last week.
We all love the fun that we can experience in the summer to stay cool: swimming, floating down the river in a tube, eating ice cream and popsicles, running through the sprinkler, and sitting in the shade with an ice-cold lemonade doing absolutely nothing. How do you like to stay cool in the summer? We must be careful that the heat doesn’t get the best of us. Extreme heat can cause serious health problems. Included in this month’s article are ways to protect your health during the heat of summer.
“There is hot, and then there is hot! Extreme heat is a period of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees for at least two to three days. In extreme heat, your body works extra hard to maintain a normal temperature, which can lead to death. Extreme heat is responsible for the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards.” (ready.gov/heat).
Practice heat safety practices:
- At your outdoor job: Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and take breaks in the shade whenever you can.
- Indoors: Use air conditioning to stay cool, stay hydrated, and check on the elderly or those who do not have air conditioning. Choose lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing. Use your stove and oven less. Take cool showers or baths. Drink plenty of water. Go somewhere that has air conditioning: a friend or family member’s home, the public library, the mall, a grocery store, a movie theater, or a cooling center set up by the city.
- Vehicles: Never leave children or pets in a hot car. LOOK before you LOCK to ensure the vehicle is clear. The temperature in your car can quickly become deadly. If it is 80 degrees outside, the interior of the car can reach 99 degrees in 10 minutes, 109 degrees in 20 minutes, 114 degrees in 30 minutes, and 123 degrees in 60 minutes!
- Outdoors: Limit strenuous outdoor activities, stay hydrated, take frequent breaks, and find shade. Choose lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing. During times of extreme heat, it may be best to skip outdoor exercise, especially during the hottest part of the day.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two serious consequences that result from being in the heat and not drinking enough water.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include dizziness, thirst, heavy sweating, nausea, and weakness. If you have these symptoms you should move to a cooler area, sip water, loosen clothing, and seek medical help if symptoms don’t improve. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
Heat stroke symptoms include confusion; dizziness; extremely high body temperature; red, hot, dry skin with no sweat; and possibly becoming unconscious. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and you must act fast! You should CALL 911, move the person to a cooler area, loosen clothes and remove extra layers, and cool with water or ice. Heat exhaustion can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Enjoy the summer weather but be sure to be cautious during times of extreme (or not so extreme) heat.
Be well. Stay cool.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Natural disasters and severe weather: extreme heat. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2021). Extreme heat. https://www.ready.gov/heat