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How to Handle the Heat Wave

Updated on July 24, 2010

We have a heat wave

Everybody on the East Coast is cooking.
Everybody on the East Coast is cooking.

It's Hot Hot Hot and Humid

The East Coast has been suffering from a heat wave. Temperatures have been in the 90's and 100's. We have had some rain showers and for a short time the temperatures drop but then they go right back up. This is especially hazardous to your health because the humidity is also high. When high temperatures come, the body sweats to cool itself off. But when the humidity is also high, it interferes with sweating and this can cause the body to heat up to an unhealthy level. High temperatures pose a special threat to certain groups of people as well. Elderly people, children and people with health conditions and on medications are at increased risk when it is hot and when it is humid. People with breathing problems like asthma, emphysema and allergies have more trouble with breathing in this kind of weather.

How do we handle the heat wave? You need to have a strategy for staying healthy in these high temperatures. Even otherwise healthy people can develop heat exhaustion and even heat stroke if care is not taken to prevent them. These steps will help:

1. Limit exposure until you are acclimatized

If you know you need to be outside, perhaps for a job or certain necessary activities, you need to start with a limited exposure to the heat and then gradually increase your time in the sun. Always have water handy and a hat. If you feel weak, light headed or woozy, go inside immediately. As you get used to the heat, you will be able to tolerate longer times in the outdoors.

2. Drink and wet yourself with water

Remember that your sweating and thirst may be unreliable because of the high humidity. Drink water at regular intervals whether you are thirsty or not. If you wait until you feel thirst, you may have waited too long. In addition to drinking water, spray yourself with a spray bottle of water or wipe your face and neck with a wet cloth. Wetting your skin helps to cool it off and aids in the evaporation process that is caused by sweat.

You need plenty of water in and on your body

Drink lots of water and put it on your skin for maximum cooling effect.
Drink lots of water and put it on your skin for maximum cooling effect.

Stay in the AC

 3.  Even indoors, you need air conditioning

Unless you have really powerful fans in your house, you need air conditioning.  If you don't have it, go to a mall, or a building that has air conditioning.  Especially if you have one of the health conditions or you are one of the special groups mentioned above, you may suffer health problems if you try to make do with only a fan.  In some cases even the breeze is hot, so opening windows will not help.  If you have air conditioning and you are worried about the cost, using fans with the air conditioner will cool the room faster and you can turn the AC down, saving money. 

4.  Do most activities early or late in the day

Activities that cause you to exert yourself, like exercise programs, housework, gardening and so forth should be done early in the morning or late in the evening.  It is cooler before the sun is high in the sky and after the sun sets.  Daylight is also at a premium at these times, but it is safer even if you have to curtail some of your habits and hobbies for a time. 

The heat wave will eventually come to an end and fall and winter will come.  But in the meantime, take these precautions to ensure that you will have a healthy summer.  You may have to do some things a little differently, but you can still enjoy the season without endangering your health.

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