Keeping Cool During the Hot Summer Months

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Sun Life Health Care

Summertime in the desert can be brutal if not prepared for it. The hot sun and relentless heat can sneak up on you, and cause harmful effects – even fatal ones.

Pinal County, along with the other four centrally located counties in Arizona: Gila, Graham, Maricopa and Yavapai, have the highest number of heat-related incidents each year during the summer months, May through September. In 2012, there were 1,572 emergency room visits and 212 hospital admissions for excessive heat illnesses in Arizona. The populations at greatest risk for heat-related illnesses are the elderly, over 65 years of age; infants, four years and under; overweight or obese individuals; and, those who do outdoor labor.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, though, the population most at-risk for emergency room visits and fatalities are the elderly population. Between 2000-2012, one out of every two Arizona residents who either died or showed up in emergency rooms for heat illnesses was older than 54 years.

Children are also very vulnerable to heat illness, especially when car travel is involved. According to the Safe Kids Worldwide Organization, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of four. On average, every 10 days a child dies from heat stroke in a vehicle, or about 40 children a year.

The majority of heat-induced stress in Arizona usually occurs during outdoor activities. Help protect yourself and your family from heat/sunstroke and dehydration this summer, with some basic precautionary measures:

Drink water. Individuals who are outdoors in the summer heat should drink one to two liters of water, and those doing strenuous activity should drink up to four liters. Avoid coffee or alcohol, which will rehydrate you.

Protect your skin. Always wear sunscreen if you will be out from under the sun for more than 20 minutes. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect the heat. Other options are hats or umbrellas.

Take it slow. Try to keep strenuous activity during the cool morning times (between 4 a.m. – 7 a.m. ). If you are doing hard labor during the hottest times of the day, take frequent breaks in a shaded place to cool down.

Eat more, eat less. Eat smaller meals, more often, throughout the day. This keeps your energy up, but does not overwork your body. It’s advised to especially avoid protein (meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, beans) which can raise your body temperature as you digest it.

Here are some additional Child Car Safety Tips to ensure your child stays out of harm’s way when the mercury is high:

• Never leave your child alone in a car. Ever. A car heats up twice as hot as the outside temperature, and is not safe for young children.

• Make sure to lock your vehicle, including doors and trunk, when you’re not using it to ensure that your child does not get into the car when you are not around. Keep keys and remote entry fobs out of children’s sight and reach.

• Teach kids that trunks are for transporting items, not people, and are not safe places to play.

• Create reminders for yourself to take your child with you when you get out of the car by putting a personal item such as a briefcase or purse in the backseat next to them. This is especially helpful if you are not following your regular daily routine.

• If you ever see another child alone in a car, immediately call 911. You may save a life.

• If your child is missing, get help and check swimming pools, vehicles and trunks. If your children are locked in a car, get them out as quickly as possible and dial 911 immediately. Emergency personnel are trained to evaluate and check for signs of heatstroke.

• Create a calendar reminder for your electronic devices to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare.

• Develop a plan with your daycare so that if your child is late, you’ll be called within a few minutes. Be especially careful if you change your routine for dropping off children at daycare.

For our older neighbors or family members, check in on them regularly during the hot season. Elderly people tend to not drink as much, so it is doubly important to remind them to drink water to keep them hydrated. Seniors are advised to stay in the coolest part of the house during the day with fans, or go out to a public place (library, or mall) to keep cool. To make sure air-conditioners are working at top-efficiency, vacuum, clean, or replace air filter regularly.

With just a few precautions in place, you and your family will enjoy a safe and happy summer!

Lindsey Gemme (2 Posts)

Lindsey Gemme is a public relations specialist for Sun Life Medical Center with facilities in Pinal County.


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