This is the second day of a Heat Advisory for this area. Sure, we all feel drained and listless, not to mention that any kind of physical movement makes a person break out into sweat. But especially in the Ohio River Valley heat can cause more problems than sticky underarms. People especially at risk are the elderly, young children, and anybody who must work outside. Check the Weather Channel and weather.com for updates and further information. Here's what to watch for:
Severe Sunburns: It might not seem like a major heat related health issue, but it is. When the skin is reddened and burned, it loses the ability to drain heat away from the core of the body; blood that runs close to the surface in order to cool down isn't able to because the skin itself is overheated! Have you ever seen some poor fellow who looks like a boiled lobster after a day on the beach? That's a severe sunburn. The peeling that will happen will be spectacular. Hope that poor person doesn't wind up with sun poisoning and blisters from the burn.
How to Treat: Their best bet is to stay out of the sun in a cool spot, keep applying that aloe vera gel, and to keep hydrated. (Keeping hydrated will be a theme.)
Heat Exhaustion: This term gets bandied around alot with 'Heat Stroke', but they are not interchangable words for the same thing. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are weakness, nausea, heavy sweating, fainting, clammy and cold skin (do not be fooled! Cold skin does NOT mean cool internal temperatures!), and for those who are medically inclined to check the pulse, it will be weak and thready. This is actually a mild form of shock. Heat exhaustion can occur when working outside for extended periods of time when the weather is hot and humid. If not recognized and treated appropriately, it can and probably will lead up to heat stroke.
How to Treat: Get out of the sun, drink cool water (not ice cold), loosen clothing, rest for the remainder of the day, and stay away from protein-heavy foods. Ice water will feel like a kick in the gut and might cause cramping, while foods laden with protein (cheese, meat, milk, the like) will cause blood to flow to the intestinal tract and kick up the core body temperature in order to digest. High internal temperatures are what we are trying to avoid. Call the doctor if vomitting happens.
Heat Stroke: It's no joke. Seriously. The body shuts down your internal air conditioning unit, in short. The body ceases to sweat, and that can cause the internal temperature to skyrocket to deadly temperatures. The heat can rise so high, it is possible to cause brain damage. (If you think a sunburn feels like you're cooking, be thankful you have not experienced this kind of heat.) Look for red, hot and dry skin, throbbing headache, strong, fast pulse, dizziness, confusion, nausea, and worst: unconsciousness. If not treated immediately, death can occur within 10-15 minutes.
How to Treat: Call 911. Then try to cool the body any way possible, as fast as possible: strip the clothing, give a sponge bath with cool water, run a fan on the person's body. If outdoors, move victim to shade, strip clothing, and run water from a hose on the body. DO NOT GIVE FLUIDS.
So what can a person do to avoid these terrible health risks? First step is come to the library! Two words: Air Conditioning. This is especially helpful if you do not have air conditioning in your own home. Even if you only come for a few hours, when you go back out into the heat, your body will be able to handle the stress of it a bit better.
Second step: Hydrate yourself. If your body does not have enough moisture for it to sweat, you are on the fast track for heat stroke. Sweating cools the body by evaporating beads of moisture off of the skin. This is the first air conditioning the world knew about, and one of the most effective and environmentally safe ones, too. (Some people's noses might disagree, though!) After air wicks away the sweat, the skin is cooled, which cools the blood in the vessels close to the skin. The cooled blood then circulates around the body, cooling the internal temperatures, and then bringing more hot blood back to the skin in order to become cooler again. It's a beautiful system. The more water you drink, the easier it is for your blood to flow, as well. And it all relates back to making your sweating system more efficient.
Step three: whether you have electric air conditioning or not, keep those electric fans on and that air moving. Moving air evaporates water faster than stagnant air. This is why if you are sweating profusely it feels so good to stand in front of a fan. It's ok to talk into the fan, too, if you're alone...it distorts your voice and you can pretend to be an alien or an announcer. Other tips are to keep your front door and drapes closed; sun coming in through a window can increase the temperature in your house, wilt your plants, and make your AC and fans work harder. Closing the drapes will help your electric bill stay somewhat lower.
If you absolutely must go out, here are a few tips. Wear light colored, light fabric, loose clothing. Light colors in the spectrum bounce sun rays off and away, as opposed to dark colors, which absorb. This is why people with black, dark brown, and navy blue colored cars always have every window and door open in the parking lot when they first open them up in the summer. (I am one of those silly people...my car is black.) Central Library does have an underground parking level to for those who don't want to bake their car seats.
Slow down and don't over exert yourself, particularly in the middle of the day. This is a great excuse to anybody: "I must slow down and not exert myself, especially in the middle of the day, on a day like today; the heat index is says it feels like blah blah degrees, and I don't want to risk getting heat exhaustion. Let's go to the Library and get out of this heat." This next tip should be a no-brainer, but people do forget: wear sunscreen. Preferably with a high SPF. Getting a sunburn is uncomfortable and we've already been over why else it is bad.
Last tip; no prizes for those who can guess what it is: HYDRATE. Drink cool water, or Gatorade/Powerade/Vitamin Water, but especially WATER. This cannot be stressed enough. The body is 70% water and most Americans are chronically dehydrated. People find that if they take a sip or two of water during the day instead of reaching for a snack, that water is what their body wanted in the first place anyway. People confuse 'thirst' with 'hunger', mainly because you feel 'empty' with both.
The Cup and Chaucer here at Central has a cooler full of drinks for those who would like a refreshing thirst-quencher while they are enjoying the comfortable chairs and cool air when in the stacks. Who knows? By the time you finish your book, the heat advisory might be over. And you'll know exactly where to go when the next one pops up.