Beat the heat during heat waves

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Working out in a pool is a great way to stay cool when temperatures rise. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

July has arrived with blistering hot days, affecting the lowlands, mountains and deserts alike. While Anza is normally spared the brunt of the heat waves, thermometer readings can still approach or even exceed the century mark.

Temperatures in excess of 100 degrees are not only uncomfortable, they can be dangerous, especially for young children and for older adults in the community.

Weather forecasters, such as the U.S. National Weather Service in San Diego, issue heat-related weather warnings to let the public know that a change is on the way.

These alerts consist of two levels: a “Heat Advisory” means that temperatures may reach 100-105 degrees in the next 72 hours and to take precautions and an “Excessive Heat Warning” indicates heat index values in the 105-110 degree range within the region. The public is advised to take these warnings seriously.

California holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded. On July 10, 1913, it was a blistering 134 degrees in Furnace Creek, located in Death Valley.

Anza has not experienced anything that hot, but triple-digit temps are still a concern for heat-sensitive residents.

Heat-related injuries can seem harmless enough, but too much sun and overheating can have uncomfortable results and even be fatal.

Mild to moderate sunburn is a first-degree burn that injures the top layers of skin which have been exposed to the sun. It can result in redness and pain. Severe sunburn can even cause swelling, fluid-filled blisters, fever and headaches. Sunburn ointments, cool baths or compresses may help relieve the discomfort. Drinking plenty of water also helps the body recover.

Heat cramps are another overheating illness and usually related to dehydration. Symptoms include increased sweating and painful muscle spasms and cramps of the arms, legs, hands, back and sometimes the abdomen. Treatment involves removing the person from the heat, offering lots of water and gently massaging the tightening muscles to relieve the cramping.

Heat exhaustion is the inability to sweat enough to cool the body efficiently. Extreme fatigue, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting and cold, clammy, pale, red or flushed skin indicates heat exhaustion. It is important to get the person into a cool location immediately, loosen clothing and apply cold compresses. A doctor may need to be consulted if any vomiting continues as the person is cooled.

Heatstroke is the most dangerous heat-related event and can result in death. It happens when the body is so stressed that it stops sweating, yet its temperature continues to rise. Hallucinations, headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion and eventually delirium or unconsciousness can occur. The skin will be hot, dry, red or flushed.

Heatstroke is a severe medical emergency that can be fatal. Dial 911, remove clothing, place the person in a cool place or a cold bath until help arrives. Quick action could be the difference between life or death.

Many common methods can be used to lessen the possibility of heat-related illnesses.

– Avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., as these are the hottest hours of the day.

– Reduce physical activity outside during the hottest times.

– Avoid eating hot, heavy meals that include lots of protein. These foods increase metabolism and the body’s water consumption, which raises body temperature.

– If air conditioning in the home is not available, take a cool bath or shower twice a day and visit air-conditioned public spaces or “cool-off” locations during the hottest part of the day.

– Wear a wide-brimmed hat and light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes when outside, as this type of clothing reflects heat and sunlight.

– Drink plenty of fluids even if not thirsty. Water is best. Avoid alcohol or caffeine drinks since they are diuretics that increase the flow of urine, thus depleting the body of water.

– Use sunscreen every two hours when spending time in the sun. Sunscreens can weaken with age, so be sure to make sure the product has not expired.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.