A heat wave is coming, what should you do?

Keep these tips in mind during summer days of extreme heat.

In most of the United States, July and August are the hottest months of the year. Even here in Michigan, temperatures at this time can reach well beyond the 80s and 90s. Often these extremely hot days are very humid, increasing the misery index.

If you’ve seen the forecast temperatures for the next few days I bet you’re thinking that we are headed for a pretty uncomfortable weekend. Unfortunately, there’s more to hot days than just being uncomfortable. Heat and humidity can affect your body in dangerous ways. If you have a chronic disease, heat can be even more serious.

What makes heat dangerous for us? 

We all know that when the temperature goes up, our body attempts to cool off through sweating. Many people don’t know that, in addition to sweating, blood flow moves toward the skin and away from vital organs. This could potentially have disastrous results. Overworked and overheated muscles may start cramping. The effects are more serious for those with chronic disease, very young children and the elderly. If it’s hot and you’ve been sweating and suddenly your sweating stops, seek immediate medical attention. Not sweating during very high temperatures is a symptom of extreme body distress.

What can you do to help your body during extreme heat? 

Here are some steps to take when the temperatures soar:

  • Drink water. Drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty. Water is your number one defense against dehydration.
  • Plan meals around fruits and vegetables which are mostly water. Not only will you increase your fluid intake, but fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients that will help you stay healthy. 
  • Wear light colored clothing. Dark fabrics absorb heat.
  • Postpone outdoor activities until temperatures and humidity return to normal levels.
  • Stay indoors in air-conditioned areas. If you don’t have air conditioning, consider buying a window air conditioner for the room where you spend the most time. If you’re able, go to stores, malls or libraries that have air conditioning.
  • Use fans to move the air. All types of fans, from electrical to the paper fan you wave over your face can help you stay cooler.
  • Keep window shades and curtains closed over windows that face the sun.
  • When you park the car, keep windows partially open to prevent an extreme buildup of heat. Consider windshield screens to block the sun’s rays. There have been days so hot that I couldn’t touch my steering wheel.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in cars! Even with the windows partially opened, extreme temperatures can cause brain damage or even death.

Following these tips from Michigan State University Extension will help lower your risk of developing heat-related symptoms. Summer can be a wonderful time of the year to enjoy outdoor activities with family and friends. Just remember to do it safely during times of extreme heat and humidity

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