Editorial: Know how to cope with heat
“The Heat Is On” might seem like a song more appropriate for the height of the summer season, but with this year’s extreme weather swings, there’s plenty of time left for heat waves.
People sing a different tune when the northern climate betrays them by not delivering cooler temperatures. Then, it’s a matter of beating the heat if they have to be outside or in non-air conditioned buildings. It’s also time to check on older or isolated neighbors who may need assistance.
Most at risk besides those older adults are young children. General heat exhaustion symptoms include fainting, rash, fatigue and nausea. Skin can become clammy and moist or hot and dry. Heat stroke can come on rapidly and may progress to life-threatening illness within minutes.
If heat-related symptoms appear, action should be taken immediately to reduce body temperature. This includes taking a cool shower, bath or sponge bath. Wearing wet clothing also has a cooling effect.
Anyone who doesn’t have access to air conditioning in their homes is encouraged to seek out air conditioned facilities such as a mall, library or senior center, or stay with family or neighbors who do have air conditioning.
Here are some tips from Wisconsin emergency management and health officials to stay safe in hot weather:
—Keep the living space cool. Cover windows to keep the sun from shining in. If there isn’t an air conditioner, open windows to let air circulate. When it’s hotter than 95 degrees, use fans to blow hot air out of the window rather than to blow hot air on one’s body. Basements or ground floors are often cooler than upper floors.
—Slow down and limit physical activity. Plan outings or exertion for the early morning or after dark when temperatures are cooler.
—Drink plenty of water and eat lightly. Don’t wait for thirst, but instead drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid alcohol or caffeine and stay away from hot, heavy meals.
—Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Add a hat or umbrella to keep the head cool...and don’t forget sunscreen!
—Don’t stop taking medication unless a doctor says so. Take extra care to stay cool and ask the doctor or pharmacist for any special heat device.
—Apply cold, wet towels to the neck, head and limbs to cool down the body quickly.
The American Red Cross advises excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish their fluids with a half a glass (about four ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes.
If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 911 or the local emergency number.
Heat stroke is life-threatening. Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness, vomiting and high body temperature. Call 911 or the local emergency number if someone shows signs of heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water, if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.
Don’t forget to be considerate to pets. Avoid physical activity with them during the heat of the day. Ensure they have access to plenty of water throughout the day and during times of exercise.
Spray the pet down with room temperature or cool water, but never ice water. Make sure pets are kept inside of air-conditioned spaces to avoid excess exposure to heat. When walking or jogging with a pet, try to avoid asphalt, as the pet’s paw pads can burn.
Never leave a pet in a car unattended, even with the air conditioning running. Don’t give sports drinks or electrolyte supplements to pets. Most importantly, know when the pet isn’t acting right—lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and dark, red gums are all signs of heat-related distress. If the pet is panting uncontrollably or collapses, take it to a veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital immediately.