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It’s Getting Hot In Here: Keeping Your Cool During The Sweltering Heat

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

You know what they say: “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”. Well, a long, harsh winter left many of us desperately longing for longer, brighter, warmer days….and that’s exactly what we got, and then some.

Actually, I’m not complaining, simply stating facts. Still, with sweltering temps well into the 90s, humidity soaring at close to 100% and the air quality being as thick as pea soup, fun in the sun may not be so much fun. In fact for many (from the very young, to the not so young, and just about anyone in between) these rising heat conditions are also raising the risk(s) associated with being outdoors. Additionally, extreme heat is often associated with the potential to cause heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn, heat rash, and can even be fatal in the most severe cases.

Here are some tips on how to keep your cool.

1. Be Aware Of Signs and Symptoms: As per the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), an average heat index of over 85 (degrees) is generally considered “dangerous”. In fact experts suggest taking any and all precautions necessary (to keep cool) in this type of weather. Also, be aware of your body’s response(s) to such “extreme” conditions. Take note of dizziness, excessive weakness, headaches, heavy perspiration, increased body temperature, irregular heartbeat, loss of focus or consciousness, muscle cramps, nausea, pale and clammy skin, skin that is red or dry, accelerated pulse, quick, shallow breathing, and severe mental changes.

2. Identify Your “Risk” Factor: According to experts some people are more greatly affected by heat than others. While some factors are simply a matter of “individuality”, others are based on more “general” criteria. The young, mature, and those who are ill or overweight face greater risk for falling prey to illnesses caused by the heat. Additionally, men, who are more inclined than women to sweat may suffer from or experience dehydration.

3. Refreshing Ideas: It’s best to stay in air-conditioned areas whenever possible. If you don’t have air conditioning consider seeking “refuge” in the basement (or lowest possible level) of you home or building. Keep the curtains closed, but windows slightly ajar, and all heat emanating appliances, such as lights, off. Indulge yourself in a cool bath or shower and use cool towels to dry off or place cold compresses on your head, hands, feet and body. If it’s still to warm and you’re uncomfortable think about visiting a friend or neighbor (who has a fan or air-conditioning), go to a library, mall, restaurant, or any other public place that will offer the comforts of a cooler atmosphere. In case of extreme emergency you can also call your local town or city office and they may avail you to free transportation to designated cooling centers if you don’t have a vehicle or are unable to drive.

4. Give Extra Attention To Children and Pets: Experts caution against leaving children or pets alone in a parked car when it’s hot out. They note, that temperatures inside a parked vehicle can rise rapidly and may cause either brain damage or possibly even death. If pets must stay outside, give them lots of water and make sure to check up on them frequently. Also make sure they have a safe, shady spot they can retreat to. Keep in mind that hot pavement may burn your pet’s paws, and don’t hesitate to contact authorities if you see or suspect a pet to be in danger from the heat.

5. Dress Down: In cases of extreme heat, less is definitely more. Wear a minimal amount of clothing and make sure it’s lightweight fabric and light in color. Also, looser-fitting clothing tends to be cooler than it’s more form fitting counterparts, and cotton, while requiring ironing, is among the most ideal summer fabrics. Experts also strongly advise wearing sunscreen with a minimum rating of 15, as well as keeping skin and lips hydrated via balm. Hats, sunglasses with ultraviolet protection of 98 percent and an ANSI rating of 99 percent are also strongly suggested.

6. Just Add Water: Among one of the best ways to keep yourself cool (and hydrated) from the inside out, is to drink lots of water and/or other cool, healthy liquids (such as fresh-squeezed fruit juice or unsweetened sun tea), even if you’re not thirsty. A minimum of six to eight (eight ounce) glasses is recommended. For those who are enjoying outdoor activity or exercising, experts suggest drinking two to four glasses of refreshing fluids every hour. Avoid alcohol and/or caffeine (they tend to dehydrate you) whenever possible. And, keep in mind, in excessive heat; salt tablets are far from a proper substitute for fluids.

7. Never Bite Off More Than You Can Chew: Professional point out that extreme heat, may call for an “extreme” reduction in what we eat, how much, and how often. They suggest eating smaller meals, more raw fruits, vegetables, greens, and crops, and eating more often throughout the day. They advise against foods high in protein, which increases metabolic heat, as well as, anything requiring expending lots of energy or the use of an oven to make.

8. Out and About and Around The House: When it’s really hot outside, try to engage in activities around the house. If you must go out, consider frequenting the mall, a movie theatre, or the ocean (temperatures tend to often be cooler by the sea). Additionally, experts suggest conducting all outdoor activities during the coolest times of the day (before 10am and after 3pm). If you have no choice but to engage in strenuous outdoor physical activity, professionals suggest finding a shady area and resting often.

9. Join A Neighborhood Watch: Experts say it’s imperative to have a buddy system, especially with family, friends, and neighbors. In any extreme situation we all need someone to rely on and to check up on us. Consider forming a buddy system with those in the area that you can count on or that can count on you. If there is no one you trust, call 311 or register with the city for an automatic well-being call.

10. Safety in Numbers: In case of emergency, as always, call 911

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