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  • How to Protect Children, Seniors, and Athletes During Hot Weather

    The heat dome has dissipated. That doesn’t mean hot weather has ended, however. It’s summer, and in most states in the continental U.S., temperatures will remain in the 80s and 90s during the day. For that matter, another heat wave could easily strike.

    Some people are more sensitive to prolonged heat than others. They include children under 4 years old, adults over 65, overweight people, and people who are ill or on some types of medication, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Even healthy people can get a heat-related illness if they work or exercise outside for a longer period.

     

    Children

    Three happy children hot weather

    Children are vulnerable for several reasons, according to the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), a partnership of federal agencies to reduce heat-based illness and death. Young children’s bodies don’t get rid of heat as efficiently, and they have a higher metabolic rate than older children and adults. Children rely on others to keep them safe because they don’t yet have knowledge or resources of their own.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists three ways to protect children from heat-related illness.

    • Never leave children in a parked car, even for a short time and even if the windows are open. When the outside temperature is more than 72 degrees, the temperature inside a car increases by 19 degrees in 10 minutes and by 29 degrees in 20 minutes, according to a study published in Pediatrics in 2005. Keeping the windows cracked reduced the temperature rise by just 3 degrees. This year, so far, 26 children have died from heatstroke after being left in cars.
    • Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Remember hats and sunblock.
    • Seek medical care immediately if a child has symptoms of heat-related illness.

     

    Adults Over 65

    Senior couple in hot weather

    Just like young children, people over 65 years old can have more difficulty regulating body temperature, according to the NIHHIS. This can exacerbate many chronic illnesses. One study in New York City found that every degree Centigrade increase caused a 4.7 percent increase in hospital admissions for respiratory illness for older patients.

    The CDC has five recommendations for older adults to keep cool.

    • Drink cool – not extremely cold – nonalcoholic beverages. Talk to a doctor if you have a restricted fluid intake or if you’re on water pills.
    • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
    • Seek an air-conditioned environment and stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. If you don't have air conditioning, visit an air-conditioned public place like a shopping mall or library.
    • Wear lightweight clothing.
    • Don’t engage in strenuous activity. Rest when possible.

    If you know an older adult, you can help them by checking on them frequently in hot weather, encouraging them to drink if medically permissible and taking them to an air-conditioned place if they have transportation trouble.

     

    Athletes

    high school football player training in hot weather

    Fall sports season is beginning. Football season! Student athletes are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness this time of year, according to the NIHHIS. The NIHIS said every year, about 9,000 high school athletes alone are treated for heat illness, like heat stroke or muscle cramps. Most are football players. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of deaths from heat stroke doubled among high school and college football players.

    The CDC makes several recommendations to protect athletes from heat-related illness.

    • Limit outdoor activity, especially midday when the sun is hottest. Schedule workouts early or late.
    • Wear sunscreen and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
    • Start activities slow and pick up the pace gradually.
    • Drink more water than usual, even when you’re not thirsty. Muscle cramps may be an early sign of heat-related illness.
    • Monitor a teammate’s condition, and have someone do the same for you. Seek medical care immediately if you see symptoms of heat-related illness.

     

    It’s not too late for all homeowners to prepare for upcoming heat waves. Ready.gov has some tips. If the home has a window air conditioning unit, make sure it’s installed snugly, and insulate it if necessary. If it has central air conditioning, check ducts for cleanliness and insulation. Tune up both types of air conditioners yearly.

    Prepare windows and doors. Weather-strip doors and windowsills to help keep hot air out and cool air in. Use covers like drapes, blinds or awnings to keep out direct sunlight. Or, cover cardboard with aluminum foil or a foil emergency blanket and install it in a window to reflect heat from outside.

     

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  • Keeping Pets Safe During the Dog Days of Summer

    Jack Russell dog sitting in front of a domestic electric fan - dog days

    As we enter the dog days of summer, it’s a great time to think about dogs, cats, and other pets, and how to prepare them for the summer’s heat.

    A pet outside in hot weather is like a person outside in hot weather — only in a fur coat and barefoot, said Deann Shepherd, the director of marketing and communications at the Humane Society of Utah.

    So start preparing with grooming and skin care. Don’t shave a dog or cat; fur helps prevent sunburn. But do get shedding fur off and provide pet sunblock (available online and at pet stores).

    Avoid walking with pets on asphalt — its heat can burn the pads of pets’ feet.

    Just as people need more water during the summer, so do pets. And just as most people don’t enjoy drinking hot water, neither do pets, Shepherd said.

    Change the water in pet bowls throughout the day so it doesn’t become too warm. Consider adding ice to the water. If you’re taking a pet outside for a longer time, bring a collapsible water bowl.

    Change the animal’s diet too.

    Freeze-dried Dog food - dog daysWet pet food can spoil faster in summer’s heat, so use more dry food. Freeze foods pets normally eat, or make treats like frozen meat or peanut butter popsicles. Emergency Essentials sells freeze-dried pet food that can work as a warm-weather treat.

    Avoid freezing hazardous foods like onion, grapes, avocados, and chocolate. The Humane Society has a list of foods to avoid.

    Learn signs of heat sickness in pets. Since dogs and cats don’t sweat, they can easily overheat, Shepherd said.

    The easiest sign of heat distress is panting. That’s how many animals cool themselves. Shepherd suggested pet owners also watch for lethargy and disinterest in normal activities, excessive and ropy salivation, brick red gums or a dark mouth, fast pulse, and vomiting or diarrhea.

    The fastest way to cool a pet is with cool — not cold — water. The American Red Cross says a garden hose is the easiest cooling tool.

    If that’s all too hard to remember, the Red Cross offers a pet first aid app.

    Pets are most likely to overheat in a car, whether the windows are open or not. Pet owners should never leave animals in a vehicle on a hot day, even for a few minutes. Shepherd recalled an experiment in which the Humane Society of Utah director sat in a car with the windows cracked open for 20 minutes on a 91-degree day. The temperature in the car hit more than 120 degrees.

    “For a pet, it would have been fatal,” Shepherd said.

    She said the best place for a pet on a hot day is inside in a cool room.

    “If you can’t take a pet into [wherever you’re going], just leave them at home,” she said.

    Finally, prepare pets to spend time outside by making sure they are tagged with microchips and keep microchip information updated. Shelters look for microchips when they are brought lost or runaway pets. The Humane Society of Utah offers free microchip clinics throughout the year, Shepherd said, and many other places offer microchip insertion for $20 to $30.

    Talk to animal experts about other ways to prepare pets for summer. Reptiles will often hide under rocks or in shade; hedgehogs can be especially particular about temperatures, Shepherd said. It boils (pardon the pun) down to this: treat pets as we’d like to be treated in the heat.

    “If it’s hot for us, of course it’s hot for them,” she said.

     

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  • Hot Heat Fuels Dozens of Fires

    It’s simple. In the western United States, heat begets fire. As of June 26, 27 large fires are burning in 10 states. The worst situation is in California, where years of drought and tree death combined with temperatures above 100 degrees have contributed to six large fires. Here’s a look at some of the fires and some things we can learn from them.

     

    Active Fire Map June 27, 2016 - via someone

     

     Erskine (Calif.)

    “It was a firestorm,” one evacuee from the fire in South Lake, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times in an elementary school/evacuation center. He didn’t know if his house was still standing.

    The fire blasted into existence the afternoon of June 23. Fed by a 40 mph wind, temperatures above 90 degrees and bone-dry grass, it traveled 11 miles in 13 hours.

    It burned through power and phone lines, knocking out both landline and cell phone service. Sheriff deputies, going door-to-door to warn residents, had to run from the fire. A couple died trying to escape. Three firefighters were injured.

    So far, more than 225 buildings and almost 60 square miles have burned. Another 2,500 homes are still threatened and six communities evacuated. The fire is only 10 percent contained, and evacuees may not return home because of fears wind shifts could send the fire in different directions.

    When it comes to fire, be prepared to run for it. Have go-bags packed and in an accessible place.

    An evacuee, Magan Weid, told the Los Angeles Times, “Everything was flying into your eyes. I didn’t have time to get glasses. I literally just grabbed a bag with miscellaneous crap. I didn’t have time to get anything together.”

    Include prescription medicines and copies of prescriptions. One evacuee worried because she and her husband left without his heart medication.

    “I don’t know where to go,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

    Have copies of vital records. In her haste, one woman left behind her Social Security card and birth certificate. All she had were her pajamas and contents of her car.

    Keep a full tank of gas. One man said he and his neighbors created a mini traffic jam in their haste to leave. Another jumped into his car only to discover its tank was low. Fortunately, he made it out.

     

    Reservoir/Fish (Calif.)

    Dual fires northeast of Los Angeles have burned about 5,000 acres since June 20. 858 homes were evacuated. On June 22, residents of 534 were allowed to go home.

    When you’re preparing to evacuate, be prepared for a long stay.  Have something to do in your go bag. Have a way to recharge a phone. Make sure you’ve got a place for pets. Many shelters won’t allow pets unless they’re service animals.

     

    Dog Head (N.M.)

    Fire via AP Home burning - photo via AP

    The Dog Head fire in central New Mexico burned almost 18,000 acres and destroyed 12 homes and 44 other structures. It is 90 percent contained.

    It could have been worse if thinning out dead trees had not taken place, said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, who toured the area June 24. In California, according to a report released June 22, 66 million trees have died in the last five years, and only 77,000 have been cut down.

    If you live in wildfire country, clear an area about 30 feet around your home of anything that might burn, like wood piles, dried leaves, and brush. Keep the roof and gutters clean.

     

    Saddle (Utah)

    Lightning on June 13 caused the Saddle fire in southern Utah. A voluntary evacuation is still in place for the nearby town of Pine Valley. The fire spread in part because three times in a week, drones grounded firefighting aircraft.

    Don’t be stupid. This time of year, as temperatures climb and vegetation dies, the western U.S. is a tinderbox. Fire restrictions are in place in southern Utah and Arizona. Obey them. Don’t do anything that might ignite dry vegetation. When there is a fire, be aware of emergency vehicles.

     

    Cedar (Ariz.)

    Firefighters are beginning to consider the aftermath of the Cedar fire, which has been burning since June 15. The fire, which burned 46,000 acres, was 60 percent contained Sunday.

    It burned during a period of horrendous temperatures. Six people died from heat. Temperatures exceeded 120 degrees in parts of Arizona.

    Ready.gov has several suggestions for keeping safe during extreme heat.

    Excessive heat warnings and heat alerts are still in effect in many places in the west. Be smart and be safe, especially during the holiday weekend ahead.

     

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