I really feel for all you in the eastern half of the USA this weekend. We're actually cooling down here in the desert as you all warm up. Of
course, that's relative. We'll still be close to 110°... but this last week we've been over 110°, so we'll take what we can get! And I thought
it might be a good time to offer some tips on getting through it. And I'm hoping other desert rats will add their own tips.
First, know that heat kills. One can go from overheated to heat exhaustion to heat stroke pretty quickly.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include:
- muscle cramping
- heavy sweating
- rapid pulse (over 90)
- clammy skin
Treatment for heat exhaustion is pretty simple: Remove patient from heat, cool patient down with cool water from a hose or spray bottle or wet
cloths, rehydrate with cool -- not cold -- water.
Symptoms for heat stroke (a medical emergency requiring medical care):
- Throbbing headache
- lack of sweating
- red, hot and dry skin
- muscle weakness
- nausea and vomiting
- rapid heartbeat; which may be either strong or weak
- rapid, shallow breathing
- confusion, disorientation or staggering
If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 or take the patient to the hospital emergency room immediately; if waiting for ambulance, you can try these
- Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose or spray bottle.
- Apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them
may reduce body temperature.
- Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water.
- If the person is young and healthy and suffered heat stroke while exercising vigorously -- what's known as exertional heat stroke -- you can use
an ice bath to help cool the body.
Okay. I wanted to address the health dangers first, but of course everyone would much prefer not to get to that point to begin with, so now for some
basic heat survival tactics.
Clothes -- White or light colors (which reflect sunlight and heat), cotton or other natural (breathable) fibers, loose clothing that allows for air
circulation and your skin to breathe, hats and sunglasses. If you must work in the direct sun, long pants and sleeves might be a better alternative
than shorts and tank tops to avoid sunburns.
Cooking -- If you must cook inside, use a stove or microwave or toaster over, but don't turn on the oven!!! Better yet, grill outdoors and leave the
heat outside. If using the stove, only make quick foods -- things like soup, eggs, etc. But chances are you won't even want hot food. So plan and
prepare cold meals -- sandwiches, salads, cheeses with crackers or rolls, fruit and veggies with dips, yogurt, cereal, smoothies, ice cream, jello,
and so on. (I lovelovelove vanilla yogurt as a dip for fruits, especially cantaloupe!)
Vehicles -- Check fluids, especially water and top it off if necessary. If you don't have a windshield screen, get one! Try to do your errands in
the early morning or after the sun goes down. If you can park in shade, do it -- even if you have to walk farther. The car will stay MUCH cooler.
If you can't park in the shade, then try to park with the sun hitting the rear of the car instead of the front of the vehicle. Get a cloth steering
wheel cover, or bring oven mitts... steering wheels can get so hot they will literally burn your hands. When you start the car, roll down all the
windows and blast the A/C for 10 or 15 seconds, blowing all the hot air out of the car. Roll up the windows and turn the A/C down again.
Exercise or yard work -- If you must do it, do it early in the morning or after the sun sets. And remember the sun is always worse than the heat;
meaning that doing anything in the direct sun at 90° is worse than doing something in the shade at 110°. Wear a hat, or get a
-- yes, they really work! Keep cool water on hand. (I freeze
bottles of water to take out with me, they melt as I work and don't get too warm). Consider misters as well -- a simple length of tubing with mister
nozzles that attaches to the hose. It's amazing how well they cool an area off.
Pets -- Pets can get too hot too of course. If you cannot bring your pets or other critters indoors, make sure they have deep
shade, plenty of
water (also in the deep shade), and consider misters for them also. We have a string of misters for some feral cats that hang around our house, but
would never ever come inside! Cats can handle heat a little better than dogs, but both are a concern. If possible, leave your grass a little long
for the critters to lounge in after the heat of the day. Or put the sprinklers on in the afternoon. I've divided my backyard into six imaginary
sections and water a different section every afternoon, so in a week I've watered the whole backyard. Some dogs love a little wading pool. When my
kids were little, they shared their pool with the dogs. They loved it! (Those wading pools work for adult kids too
Indoors -- Keep shades/drapes closed during the day. If you have leaks around doors/windows, try to seal them up -- even if it's just with duct
tape. (1001 uses!!!) Fans won't actually reduce temperatures, but they will make you more comfortable. If you place a bowl of ice in front of the
fan, it will cool the air even more. You can also put wet sheets/towels over open windows to cool the air coming in. At night, open the windows (or
if you have security doors, open your inside doors), put a fan in front of it and let it blow the hot air out at night while you sleep.
Finally, at the end of a hot and absolutely miserable day, after the sun goes down, take a shower, do NOT dry yourself off or dry your hair, but go
outside soaking wet, sit in the cool breeze and air dry... it's heaven.
Anyone else have some good tips? Please continue adding them in the comments!
Good luck and -- dare I say it? -- stay cool
Heat Stroke: Symptoms and Treatment
20 Tips to Beat the Heat This Summer
23 Ways to Beat the Heat