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Coping With Scorchers!

Before we dare delve further into the unfolding and ongoing mysteries of healthcare reform in America — and we know we must — let’s talk about the weather!  More precisely, let’s revisit some ways to keep our cool in this relentless heat.

You know that heat exposure can kill.  High temperatures caused the deaths of 8,015 people in the US from 1979 and 2003, and we know this number will climb once up-to-date figures are analyzed and added.  The body sometimes has a great deal of trouble compensating for heat and fails to cool down properly, and this is where some serious trouble begins.  In fact, there are two main things that affect the body’s ability to cope with soaring temperatures:

  • High humidity.  We’ve all experienced this one.  When the humidity is very high our sweat doesn’t evaporate fast enough.  This keeps our bodies from releasing heat as quickly and efficiently as it should – and we really, really suffer.
  • Personal factors.  Here we have all the usual suspects: advancing age, obesity, fever, dehydration, mental illness, heart disease, sunburn, poor circulation, prescription drug use, alcohol consumption and the like all play a role in whether or not we cool down quickly enough in the hot weather.

Here are some facts about those at highest risk for heat-related illness and how to take preventive actions that may prevent illness or even death:

  • Who’s at highest risk?  The elderly, the very young, and those with mental illness or chronic diseases or conditions.
  • What about strenuous physical activity?  Even the young and very fit and healthy can get sick from the heat if they play or train hard during hot weather.
  • Hooray for air-conditioning!  AC is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death.  If you or someone you care for is without AC during a heat wave (for any reason, including local power outages), you can  reduce your risk of heat-related illness by heading to the mall or the movies or any public facility that is air-conditioned.

Here are some other things you can do to prevent heat-related injuries, illnesses and deaths during a heat wave:

  • Drink plenty of fluids (ignore Mayor Bloomberg on this one!)
  • Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location.
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully – and this goes for pets, too.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN OR PETS IN CARS.
  • Check on friends and neighbors, and have someone do the same for you.
  • Keep an eye on the local news for health and safety updates.

Special thanks National Center for Environmental Health, Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects.  

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