EDITORIAL: Extreme heat an extreme danger to all

Published 7:36 pm Thursday, August 21, 2014

If you haven’t started wilting yet, it’s coming. Temperatures will reach as high as 100 degrees in the coming days. Today’s high is expected to be 99 degrees, Friday, 100 degrees and the area will see some “relief” by Monday when the expected high drops to 97 degrees.

While it would not be Sweet Home Alabama without these sweltering summer months, never assume your body will react the same way it always has. According to the Mayo Clinic, your ability to cope with extreme heat is often associated with your age. Children have not developed a strong enough central nervous system and people 65 or older have a deteriorating system. These age groups are more vulnerable to heat, but any age can fall victim to it. Certain medications (like diuretics, antidepressants or beta blockers) can increase you chances of suffering from heatstroke. Conditions like obesity, heart and lung disease can also increase your risk.

Take simple precautions and keep this heat wave from getting the best of you.

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There’s a reason farmers have always gotten up before dawn. Take a page from that playbook and try your best to do any physical outdoor activity early in the morning or after sunset. Temperatures have been jumping into the 80s by 9 a.m. this week. Thanks to the humidity, mornings have felt like it was at least 90 degrees.

Make a habit of carrying bottled water or sports drinks in your vehicle or anytime you are outdoors. If you don’t need it, you may run into someone who does.

Remember the signs of heat exhaustion so that you can act quickly to combat it. A heatstroke can happen by doing strenuous activities in hot weather or by simply being exposed to a hot environment. In either case, excess clothing, alcohol or dehydration can contribute to the condition.

Symptoms of a heat stroke include high body temperature, altered mental state or behavior (confusion, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke), nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate and headache.

If you think someone is experiencing heatstroke, move the person indoors or in the shade; remove extra clothing; and cool the person by any means available, whether it is a cool shower, wet towel, garden hose, ice pack or bucket of ice not unlike the ALS challenge.

Make it a point to visit anyone elderly who lives alone this week. In addition to having central nervous systems and medical factors that put them at risk, the elderly are more likely to leave their air conditioners off and assume they have built a tolerance to hot summer days. If you can’t convince them to cool down their homes, offer to take them shopping or to an early supper during the warmest times of the day.

Extreme heat is nothing to take lightly. Do your part to keep yourself and your neighbors healthy.