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Friday, May 23, 2014

Be Smart in the Hot Summer Heat

The National Weather Service has declared May 23 Beat the Heat Day. With temperatures easily reaching 110+ degrees here in Arizona, taking care of ourselves in the heat can be a matter of life or death.

I moved to Arizona during the summer from a much cooler climate. All I could think about was how nice it felt. My mom, who hadn’t stopped fanning herself since we arrived, looked at me and said, “What were you thinking? You can count on my not visiting you during the summer.” I looked at her and just smiled.

I’ve always enjoyed the heat. I’d rather be warm than cold. I was looking forward to being able to exercise outside all year long, without worrying about being rained on or snowed out. Not to mention, spending time at the pool or the lake for more than two months each year.

However, heat is not a laughing matter. It is one of the leading weather-related causes of death in the United States. A person can get heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke, which can lead to death. When it is very hot and humid (like during Arizona’s monsoon season), the body cannot cool itself as effectively. If one gets hot too quickly, or becomes dehydrated, the body’s temperature rises to dangerous levels.

I learned very quickly what I could and could not do in the heat. If I wanted to hike in July, I started before the sun came up and kept it short. I rode my bike early and kept it short as well. I made sure my workouts did not go past a certain time in the morning. Because I learned what would happen if I didn’t pay attention - a red face, cramps, dizziness, and feeling horrible the rest of the day.

Thankfully, I never got worse than that. But if I had kept going, I may have developed more heat exhaustion symptoms – weakness and nausea, even passing out. Or worse, I could have gotten heat stroke.

When it’s hot, we need to think smart to keep ourselves safe:

·         Slow down, especially during the hottest parts of the day.
o    Spend less time outside.
o    Work out in the cooler hours, or take your exercise indoors
o    Spend time in air-conditioned places.
·         Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
o    Limit alcoholic beverages.
·         Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
o    Wear a hat when outdoors to protect face and neck.
·         Never leave children or pets alone in vehicles.
o    Check that car seats and safety buckles aren’t too hot to burn skin.
o    Teach children not to play in vehicles.
C     Check on people you know who do not have air conditioning.

We need to be smart during the hot summer months, especially in Arizona. And count the days until cooler weather comes our way.

For more information on beating the heat and staying safe, visit Just in Case Arizona,, National Weather Service, or the CDC.

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