Stay cool on the hottest daysWhen that thermometer outside displays nearly 100 degrees, it can often seem like no amount of air conditioning is enough to cool you down.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
When that thermometer outside displays nearly 100 degrees, it can often seem like no amount of air conditioning is enough to cool you down.
Those are the days that extreme heat and humidity go from being simply a nuisance to a serious concern. Heat has the ability to cause muscle cramps, rashes, exhaustion and stroke, all of which can be avoided by following the proper precautions. For starters, stay indoors when possible.
“You don’t want to be exposed to that heat for any given length of time,” Goodhue County Health and Human Services nursing supervisor Theresa Miller said.
Avoiding the heat is sometimes easier said than done, especially if a person has no air conditioning at home. But, it’s still possible.
The Health and Human Services Department suggests heading someplace that is no doubt air-conditioned all day. Shopping malls, big box stores and restaurants, for example, tend to have the cool air cranked up during a real summer scorcher. There are plenty of other locations as well.
“Go to a movie in the hottest part of the day,” Miller recommended.
Sometimes simply taking a drive around town can provide relief from the heat. Just remember to make sure the car’s air conditioner is fully working before getting too far.
If you prefer to remain at home, keep in mind that simply using electric fans isn’t necessarily enough to protect you from heat-related illnesses if temperatures are creeping into the high 90s.
“Electric fans are just blowing the hot air around,” Miller said. “They’re not cooling the air.”
Rather than sitting in front of a fan, try sitting in a cold bath instead. A quick soak in the tub or dip in a swimming pool can be effective ways to cool down.
One thing to be extra aware of, Miller noted, is dehydration. Sometimes children may swim all day, so they don’t think about being thirsty. But just because they’re immersed in water doesn’t mean they’re staying hydrated.
“They may be playing in a pool and they don’t stop to drink,” Miller said, adding that fluids are important even when people don’t think they need them. “Just keep drinking throughout the day and sometimes even if you’re not thirsty.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people need to drink more fluids than usual on extremely hot days — but not just any kind of fluid. The CDC says to steer clear of alcoholic beverages or those containing large amounts of sugar as both will cause a body to become more dehydrated.
Dehydration is just one of many factors that contribute to some of the serious heat-related illnesses health officials are warning about.
And despite how minor something may seem, a much worse illness could potentially follow. What starts as small as a heat cramp from exercising in hot weather could eventually lead to heat exhaustion if activity continues.
It doesn’t stop there.
“Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can cause death or permanent disability unless immediately treated,” health and human services reported in a tip sheet it released for protecting yourself in hot weather.
Because of the seriousness of heat-related illnesses, Goodhue County HHS, the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health are advising people to watch out for the following symptoms when they’ve had long-term exposure to extreme heat:
• Weakness and tiredness
• Headache, nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness or fainting
Warning signs that are more specific to heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, paleness and heavy sweating, while those associated with heat stroke are a rapid pulse, confusion and hot, dry skin.
Officials are encouraging everyone to take the necessary steps to stay cool, but there are certain age groups that are directed to be more cautious than others.
“With infants, children and older adults, you need to make sure that they’re drinking, staying well-hydrated and keeping out of direct sunlight — preferably in an air-conditioned environment,” Miller said.
Ultimately, people of any age can suffer from heat-related illnesses, so taking precautions and watching out for symptoms is key.