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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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  • Tips to Beat the Summer Heat

    On June 2, this screen grab of a Gilbert, Ariz. forecast was posted on Facebook.

     

    Gilbert Forcast - summer heat

     

    Now that’s a heat wave.

    Even if this forecast isn’t accurate, much of the western U.S. is likely to see some high temperatures this month, according to the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Heat can be deadly. Fortunately, it killed only 45 people last summer – far fewer than the 10-year average of 110 people per year, according to the National Weather Service.

    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.

    A little preparation can prevent heat-related illness.

    It starts with having enough to drink. If you’re exercising, drink two to four glasses per hour. Even if you’re not doing much, drink more fluids when it’s hot, the CDC advises. That doesn’t include liquids with alcohol, caffeine, or sugar – those can cause more fluid loss.

    Young man sitting in the park and drinking water from the bottle. - summer heat Beat the summer heat.

    If possible, stay indoors and in air conditioning. If not, spend time in the shade. Electric fans are helpful until the temperature is in the high 90s. If your location doesn’t have air conditioning, find a place that does, like a library, and visit.

    “Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat,” a CDC bulletin said.

    Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. If you’re outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat and put on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Sunburn makes you more susceptible to heat illness.

    Look out for others.  Check on at-risk adults at least twice a day and watch young children more frequently. Look out for signs of heat exhaustion.

    Humans get rid of heat by sweating, pumping blood closer to the skin and panting. When a body can’t get rid of enough heat, or has a chemical imbalance from sweating too much, it goes into heat exhaustion.

    The CDC lists signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion: heavy sweating, weakness, pale and clammy skin, rapid heartbeat, cramps, nausea, or fainting.

    To treat heat exhaustion, get the patient out of the heat, have them lie down and loosen their clothing, and try to cool them off with wet cloths and fans. Have them sip water. If they don’t stop vomiting, or if symptoms haven’t improved in 15 minutes, emergency medical help may be necessary because heat exhaustion can become heat stroke.

    Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises above 103 degrees according to the CDC. Other symptoms include hot, red, dry, or moist skin, as well as having a rapid, strong pulse, fainting, nausea, seizures, and impaired mental state. Heat stroke can kill. Immediately call 911, move the person to a cooler place and try cooling strategies like wetting the patient or applying ice packs. Don’t give liquids to a person with heat stroke.

    Even if it won’t reach 412 degrees outside, summer heat can pack a punch. Be prepared with plenty of water, the right clothes and a cool place to go. Make this a fun, safe summer.

     

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