Heat waves can be deadly. In fact, heat waves kill more people in a typical year than any other weather related incidents. A heat wave brings weather conditions that interfere with the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature. When the body temperature gets too high, it can result in brain damage or even death. This is what makes heat waves dangerous.
The body usually cools itself with perspiration. When drops of sweat on the skin evaporate, the temperature of the skin goes down. If the air is too hot and humid, this evaporation process does not happen quickly enough to produce the needed cooling effect. Then the body must work harder to keep its temperature within the normal range. Those who are very young or elderly, and those with other health problems are especially susceptible to heat related illnesses, but everyone should be aware of the dangers of a heat wave.
Here are some tips to keep you safe when the next heat wave hits:
-Keep your body hydrated.
You need to drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost in perspiration. Remember that caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, meaning that they pull fluid from your cells, so avoid those. Water works well, but sports drinks and fruit juices help replenish the salts and minerals that are lost in sweat, so they are also good choices. The trick is to drink even if you do not feel thirsty.
If possible, schedule out door activities for morning or evening hours when the heat is not at its peak. Spend time in air-conditioned buildings, even if this means you need to hang out in a public library or a local shopping mall.
People who must be out in the sun should protect their skin from ultraviolet rays with sunscreen. When skin gets sunburned, its ability to rid itself of heat is seriously damaged.
Wear clothing that is loose so air can circulate under the material and get to the skin. Clothes made of lightweight fabrics in light colors absorb the least amount of heat.
Stick with foods that are easily digested, avoiding fats and heavier fare that make your digestive system work harder. Eating foods that do not require cooking also helps keep your kitchen cooler.
-Check on your neighbors
Be sure to check in on those who are elderly or ill. They are especially vulnerable to the dangers of a heat wave, and they may need assistance.
-Remember your pets
Never leave pets in vehicles, even if the windows are open. The temperature rises quickly in a car, reaching dangerous levels within minutes. If you have outside pets, be sure they have plenty of fresh water and a shady place to get out of the sun. You may have to wet them down with a hose to help keep them cool.
Remember to take heat waves seriously because they do kill people every year.