For most of you reading this article we are in the throes of mid-summer heat waves. For some of you the "dog days" of summer may last a month or maybe even two. in Arizona the peak of summer lasts from May through September. I'm not kidding.
Even though we live in a virtual furnace and fancy ourselves professionals at staying cool and burn-free, we still need to be extra cautious in mid summer. Sometimes month long stretches of 100+ temperatures can melt our brains and make us do things we normally wouldn't if we had any common sense left.
For instance, yesterday I found myself repairing roof tiles at 4:00 in the afternoon. It was 110 degrees, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and all I was wearing was shorts and tennis shoes....no shirt and no hat. I didn't think too much about it at the time (obviously my brain was fried) but this morning the entire experience came rushing back to me in one giant FLASH as I stepped into the shower and the hot (remember I live in Arizona so our water never goes below 90 degrees in the summer) water ripped into the crispy burnt flesh on my back and on my slightly (I use that term lightly) balding head.
Believe it or not, these little bouts of sunburn that I sometimes submit myself to aren't uncommon and they aren't the worst thing that can happen. After 25 years in Arizona, these little "frying" accidents have become second nature to me. The most dangerous effect of spending too much time under the sun, is the often ignored malady called "Heat Exhaustion" or "Heat Stroke" if in more advanced stages.
This affliction is a tricky bastard and one you had better be constantly watching for and prepared for. The cunning of this hazard lies in its ability to overtake you without you knowing it. One minute you feel fine, the next minute you're a babbling mass of melted protoplasm waking up in the emergency room. So how does it happen? It's rather elementary my dear Watson !!
Here's the perfect formula to drive yourself to heat stroke:
First, spend a long time in the sun. If you are going to do that make sure you are wearing inappropriate clothes( no hat, no shirt, etc.) or even no clothes at all. Then, do something very strenuous like work or play sports or go running up a mountain. While exerting yourself to the max be sure to refrain from drinking any water or beneficial fluids even if you feel thirsty. Are you getting light headed just reading this? If you really want to speed up the process then drink a butt load of alcohol. There is nothing like chugging 9 or 10 beers to bring on the onset of dehydration.
OK, now you are on your way to a major physical breakdown. All kidding aside, this is not a pleasant experience and many times it can be very dangerous. Like I said earlier, heat stroke can sneak up on you so by the time you realize that your are having issues you are already in deep doo doo.
I'm not sure where I found the wonderful chart below outlining the symptoms and recommended care for anyone that experiences heat exhaustion and heat stroke but I am glad I did so I could pass it on to you. Please take a few minutes to read it over and if you are so inclined, print it out and tape to the front door of your house so you can see it every time you plan on going outside in 110 degree temperatures without, at least, a hat on.
- Check the temps for the whole day when going outdoors.
- Think about how hot it was the last time you went out.
- Always (and I mean always) have plenty of water and/or beneficial fluids to drink.
- Map out your schedule to plan for time to rest in the A/C and use shade where available
- Learn the early signs of heat exhaustion
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing in hot weather.
- Wear a large brimmed hat
- Avoid excessive exercise or heavy physical activity outdoors
- Be very careful if you are taking drugs that impair heat regulation, or if you are overweight or elderly.
- If driving, allow your car to cool down before getting in.
- If you are overweight or long in the years, then be even more cautious and more prepared.
Fun in the sun is a good thing if done properly. In fact, it can be downright........FUN !!!
Like the great Rudyard Kipling said "Keep your head when all about you are losing theirs."
I'm not sure if he was referring to heat illnesses but if the quote works, right? Enjoy the rest of your summer and stay safe !!!
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