In case you haven’t felt it already today, here’s your reminder: it’s going to be hot this week. By Tuesday, it may feel as hot at 102 degrees.
Rising temps this weekend set the stage for us to head into several days of extremely warm weather. As we head into the start of a heat wave, it’s a good time to go over important safety tips for high temperatures – particularly for the very old, the very young, and pets.
High temperatures can be dangerous, particularly for those groups, but these tips are also good for anyone of any age suffering through 90 degrees and above for several days in a row.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health both have lists of hot weather tips that will surely come in handy, starting with the basics:
- Stay indoors.
- Dress for hot weather, particularly with lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothes. If outdoors, also consider hats and sunglasses.
- Plan to do any outdoor activities either early in the day or in the late afternoon or evening, to avoid the hottest time of day.
- Carefully monitor any exercise you partake in, and take it slower and less intense than you normally would.
- Wear sunscreen for any amount of prolonged outdoor activity.
- Avoid hot or heavy meals.
- Stay hydrated. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water.
- Anyone working outside should drink between two and four cups of water every hour they’re in high heat conditions
- Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated or sugary drinks. Minerals lost to sweat can be replaced with sports drinks.
The following groups are at particular risk during heat waves:
- Infants and young children
- People 65 and older
- People who are overweight
- People who overexert during work or exercise
- People who are ill, have heart conditions or high blood pressure, and people who take certain medications for depression, insomnia or poor circulation
There are also these important warning signs of heat-related medical conditions, followed by the health considerations for each:
Heat stroke comes with a high body temperature (103 degrees or higher), hot or reddish skin (which can be damp or dry), a fast and strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and loss of consciousness.
- Call 911 immediately.
- Move the person to a cooler place.
- Help to lower their temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath.
- Do not give them anything to drink.
Heat exhaustion comes with heavy sweating, cold, pale and clammy skin, a fast but weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness, headaches and fainting.
- Move the person to a cooler place.
- Loosen their clothes if possible.
- Sip water.
- Put cool, wet clothes on or take a cool back.
- Call 911 if the person is throwing up, symptoms get worse or last longer than one hour.
Heat cramps come with heavy sweating during intense exercise, as well as muscle pain or spasms.
- Stop physical activity and move to a cooler place.
- Drink water or a sports drink.
- Wait for cramps to stop before returning to activity.
- Call 911 if cramps last longer for an hour, you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet.
Sunburn leaves skin blistered with painful red areas that are very warm.
- Stay out of the sun until the sunburn heals.
- Put cool cloths on sunburned areas or take a cool bath.
- Use moisturizing lotion on sunburnt areas.
- Do not break any blisters caused by sunburn.
Heat rash is a cluster of small blisters that may look like pimples, particularly around the neck, chest, groin or in the creases of the elbow.
- Stay in a cool, dry place and keep the rash dry.
- Use baby powder or similar products to soothe the rash.
The National Weather Service also reiterated the dangers of heat for children, the elderly, the disabled and for pets, as well as pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses.
Do not ever leave children or pets in a vehicle, but particularly during a heat wave. The NWS also advises people with toddlers to keep their cars locked while parked to make sure that very young children don’t climb inside.
As an extra precaution, the CDC recommends bringing along a stuffed animal when traveling with a young child in a car seat, and leaving the stuffed animal in the front seat with the driver as a reminder to not leave the child in the car.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission also has a list of several simple steps that can help people stay cool inside, while also avoiding cranking the air conditioning and possibly saving you some money in utility bills.
They recommend the following:
- Use fans to keep air circulating.
- Spend time in rooms that don’t receive direct sunlight.
- Use blinds and window coverings at the sunniest times of the day to block sunlight.
- Avoid using appliances that create heat. Ovens, stoves and clothes dryers are the most obvious, but dishwashers also generate a lot of heat while running.
- Cook outdoors or with a microwave if you can to avoid building up heat from indoor cooking.
- If you are using air conditioners, make sure you clean out the filters so they run more efficiently.
- Close the doors to unused rooms.
Here are important pointers for keeping pets safe, reprinted from a 2019 PennLive story:
Know the signs of heatstroke. Excessive panting, ignoring commands, increased heart or breathing rates, drooling, weakness, collapse, vomiting and fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher are all signs of heat stroke. If you have concerns about heat stroke, immediately contact a veterinarian.
Don’t over-trim your dog’s fur. Long-haired or double-coated breeds can do with some trimming, but a dog’s coat actually helps protect it against heat and also guards against sunburn, insects and other irritants. Leaving an inch of hair is usually a good rule of thumb, but resist the urge to shave your dog to the skin to help keep them cool.
Make sure the dog has proper shade. A dog house might seem like a good place to cool off, but an enclosed and unventilated space actually traps heat.
Provide fresh water at all times. Dogs dehydrate easily, so keep cool water in bowls inside, outside, and in your vehicle if traveling with your dog.
Be more cautious in humid conditions. Humidity can interfere with dogs’ ability to regulate their own temperature by panting or limited excretions through the paws.
Bring them inside more often. Be careful not to exhaust your dogs with too much exercise in hot weather, and keeping them inside as much as possible to cool off is a good idea.
Keep the dog off of hot asphalt. You know how hot sand can be when you walk on it barefoot at the beach? Now imagine how hot black pavement can get for your dog’s feet – especially for extended walks. To avoid burning a dog’s paw pads, stay on the grass. If it’s too hot for bare feet, it’s too hot for bare paws.
Exercise early (or late). Walks and runs are best reserved for the cooler early morning or later evening. It’s also good advice for humans, obviously.
Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle. Most people know that cars get extremely hot while sitting in sunlight, particularly with the windows up. But there is still danger of intense heat even if the windows are cracked. If you are traveling and for some reason would need to keep your dog in the vehicle, it’s probably a better idea to leave them at home.
Travel prepared. If you’re bringing a dog on a vacation or road trip, it never hurts to have some extra water in a cooler, portable fans or doggie mats with cooling agents in case of emergency. If your car breaks down or AC suddenly conks out, both you and your dog will probably appreciate these items.
Do not leave pets unattended around swimming pools. Not all dogs are naturally good swimmers.
Watch out for chlorine and salt. If your dog does take a dip in the pool, rinse them off afterwards to make sure their coat is clean of compounds that can further dry them out. And make sure they don’t drink water with those things in it, obviously.
Dogs like to run in packs, even to their own detriment. Remember that dogs will try their best to keep up with you if you’re running or biking – even when they are uncomfortably hot or thirsty.
Not all dogs know to seek out shade when outside. Don’t leave dogs outdoors unattended during intense heat.