Boy, it’s hot, humid outside; stay cool with these helpful tips

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Every time I’ve stepped outdoors the last few days, I imagined that I stepped into a room in which someone was pouring water on hot rocks. It’s hot, steamy and hard to breathe. But I’m not really in a sauna—I’m just in Lower Alabama on a summer day.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), one or more parts of the United States will experience a heat wave each summer. Heat waves in our part of the country tend to combine high temperatures with high humidity.

Heat alerts are issued by the NWS Forecast office. These alerts include:

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• Excessive Heat Outlooks are issued when there is potential for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days.  The outlook (forecast) is based on the combination of temperature and humidity over the specified period of days.

• Excessive Heat Watches are issued when conditions are favorable in the next 24 to 72 hours.

• Excessive Heat Warning/Advisories are issued when an excessive heat even is occurring, is imminent or has a very high probability of occurring. The warning is used when conditions pose a threat to life. An advisory is issued for less serious conditions that can cause significant discomfort that may lead to life-threatening conditions if precautionary measures aren’t taken.

All three types of alert are based on Heat Index (HI) values. The Heat Index is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity (RH) is added to the actual air temperature.  For example, if the air temperature is 80 degrees and the relative humidity is 70 percent, the Heat Index (how it feels) is 83 degrees, and if the air temperature is 90 degrees and the relative humidity is 70 percent, the Heat Index is 105 degrees. If you’re in the sun, these temperatures may feel up to 15 degrees hotter.

As hot as it might be outside, car interiors and other unventilated spaces get even hotter. Dark dashboards and car seats contribute to the heating of cars. The sun on an 80 degree day can heat the interior of a car to 123 degrees in one hour. Interior surfaces directly exposed to the sun can be even hotter.

Keep children, disabled adults and pets safe

Make sure safety seats and safety belt buckles are not too hot before securing children in the car.

• Never leave children, disabled adults or pets unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.

• Teach children not to play in, on or around vehicles.

• Always lock car doors and trunks—even at home. Keep keys out of children’s reach.

• Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don’t ever leave sleeping children in the car.

Extremely hot and humid weather affects our bodies’ ability to cool. Young children and older adults are very susceptible to heat illnesses. Other conditions that can make some people more susceptible to heat are obesity, fever, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, prescription drug and alcohol use, and sunburn. Heat-related illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke (sunstroke). Heat stroke can result in death.

Heat safety tips

• The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Limit your time in the sun during this time. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest part of the day.

• Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 (SPF 30 and higher is even better) that offers both UVA and UVB protection.  Everyone should apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside — even on cloudy days — and reapply it every two hours. Even waterproof sunscreen loses its effectiveness after about 80 minutes of swimming.

• Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.

• Wear a wide brim hat to cover ears, nose and neck; long sleeves shirts and pants made of breathable fabric.

• Eat cooler foods such as salads and fruit. Meat and other proteins increase metabolic heat and increase water loss.

• Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated drinks.  Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink plenty of fluids—they help your body keep cool.

• Don’t take salt tablets unless specified by your physician.

• Wear sun glasses that are 100 percent UVA and UVB protected. They also help to protect against cataracts, and age related macular degeneration in seniors.

• Take cool showers to bring down your body temperature.

• Spend more time in air-conditioned places. If you don’t have an air-conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.

• Knowing the signs of heat stroke can save your life. A flushed face, high body temperature, nausea, rapid pulse, dizziness and lack of sweating despite the heat are signs that immediate action should be taken. Drinking water and ice pack to the back of the neck

• Some medication can cause increased sensitivity to the sun.  Look over your medications and talk to your health care provider about any questions or concerns you may have.

By keeping these safety tips in mind hopefully you will be able to survive our hot and humid summer in Lower Alabama. Adapted: Virginia Morgan White