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Take the steps to protect yourself from the heat

June 28, 2012

By Tracy Steffenson

While the official start of summer is June 20 this year, the Pushmataha County area has already been experiencing elevated heat levels with much more still to come.

The hot days of summer are not something to be taken lightly. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 500 Americans die from heat-related illnesses each year. By contrast the average mortality rate in the United States from tornadoes, earthquakes and floods together is less than 200.

There are those individuals who suffer in high-level temperatures because they are unable to cool down.

The human body has a cooling mechanism where it will sweat to bring the body temperature down but others are unable to produce the needed sweat because their body temperature rises so quickly.

People here, of course, are used to hot weather, but here are some tips to keep in mind when trying to beat the summer heat.

First of all, stay indoors and in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible unless you're sure you have a high tolerance for heat.

Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine and ones that are saturated with sugar.

Eat more frequently, but make sure your meals are balanced and light. Check frequently on folks who are elderly, ill or may need help. And if you feel you might need help, arrange to have family, friends or neighbors check in with you at least twice a day throughout times of hot weather.

Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering a house by a much as 80 percent.

If you can't stand to be cooped up in a house all day, plan strenuous activities for early or late in the day. Take frequent breaks when working outside.

Dress right. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and loose-fitting clothes when you're outside.

Avoid getting sunburned. It slows the skins ability to cool off. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high sun protection factor (SPF) rating.

Skin cancers are most common in people with lighter skin tones. There are three common skin cancers — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

And don't make the mistake so many people do and take a cool shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures. That can result in hypothermia, especially for very young or the elderly.

Never leave people or pets sitting in a hot car, which could be fatal. Every year the nation records people and pets, which have died as a result.

Like with people, hot, humid weather can fatal for household pets left in cars or chained outside. They can suffer brain damage, heat strokes or even die in such situations. Temperatures in a parked car can quickly reach more than 120 degrees, even with the windows partially opened.

Make sure your animals have plenty of shade, and cool, fresh water to drink. Don't leave older pets, pets with health problems or short-nose dogs, like pugs—outside in the heat.

Heavy panting, glazed eyes, vomiting, staggering or an unsteady gait, rapid pulse and a deep red or purple tongue are signs associated with heat stress. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, you need to lower its body temperature immediately by getting your animal in the shade and letting him drink cool, but not ice, water.

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