Here comes the sun. Many regions are already sizzling under triple digit temperatures as drought and extreme heat waves beat their way across the US from California to the Great Plains. Records are being broken left and right, while scientists say this drought may become the worst in more than a thousand years. Such heat isn’t just agonizingly uncomfortable—it can be deadly.
Hundreds of deaths occur annually from heat alone, and you don’t have to be out in the elements to be vulnerable; all it takes is one glitch between an unprepared person and functioning air conditioning to start the cascading nightmare that should have been avoided. In 2018, a woman in Arizona died from extreme heat exposure after the power company shut off service to her house due to an unpaid bill. An all-too-common story is that of nursing home residents dying due to the heat after their facilities lose power. Hundreds of the elderly have died this way. Even for the young and seemingly healthy, extreme heat exposure can cause health issues like heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and can also worsen chronic health conditions. Hospital admissions often increase due to complications arising from heat exposure, so taking it lightly is not an option.
First, you must be able to recognize the signs of heat stress. Don’t write off these symptoms if exposed to heat: headache, nausea, dizziness, fainting, weakness, thirst, decreased or dark urination, heavy sweating, irritability, muscle pain or cramps, confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, seizures, and high body temperatures. It is extremely important to cease activity, remove unnecessary clothing, hydrate, and seek care. Trying to “tough it out” is not appropriate and can lead to exacerbated issues that may have long-lasting effects.
Here are four techniques to beat the heat (and its effects) when modern amenities fail:
Hydrate and Chill
As mentioned before, performing strenuous activity, wearing too tight or too much clothing, and being dehydratedare all detrimental. Seek shade, relax, loosen up, and drink water. Scorching high noon is not the time to run a marathon or single-handedly fell a forest with an axe.
Ice, Ice, Baby
The thermic effect of drinking cold water is extremely helpful and relieving. If available, have frozen bottles of water in the freezer. Similarly, sitting in a tub filled with plain cold water from the tap can help relieve the body from overbearing heat, and snacking on cold foods rather than lighting up the stove or oven can help to keep both your house and body cool.
Foil the Sun
Covering windows from the outside can help to thwart the striking rays of the sun. Wet sheets can help due to the shading and evaporation, but aluminum foil or mylar blankets can be absolute reflectors of the sunshine.
Don’t Roast Your Loved Ones
Every year there are deaths because someone popped into a store “for just a minute,” leaving their pets, elders, or children in the car. Due to the greenhouse effect, a car is much like a giant solar oven. It doesn’t need to be extremely hot outside for it to get that way inside the car—and fast.
Really, folks, the most important thing is just to take the elements seriously. Too often we tell ourselves to “stop whining” and that things like working in the heat “builds character.” In truth, there is wisdom to knowing the difference between when to push your body and when to care for your body. It’s the only one you have for this lifetime, so take careof it this summer.