The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

June 13, 2009

Summertime precautions to consider

Summer does not officially begin until next Sunday, but, for all practical purposes, the dog days are here in Texas and will remain in effect through September.

Every year, unfortunately, there are numerous tragic heat-related deaths in Texas and throughout the U.S.

Many of those deaths likely could have been avoided with some basic precautions.

First of all, never leave small children or pets in a car, even with the windows cracked.

In 2003 alone, 42 children in the U.S. died of heat stroke after being left inside a vehicle.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, when the outside air temperature is 93 degrees, the temperature inside a car becomes 125 degrees after 20 minutes and 140 degrees after 40 minutes.

The same agency reports a car parked in direct sunlight can reach between 131 and 172 degrees after only 15 minutes.

A car is essentially a metal box which can be transformed into a oven by the hot sun.

Other hot weather tips include:

• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. During heavy exercise, a person should regularly consume small amounts of cool fluids at a rate of between 16 to 32 ounces per hour. Alcohol and caffeine can actually impair the body’s sweat mechanism.

• Avoid drugs and stimulants, such as coffee, cigarettes and alcohol, immediately before or after heat exposure.

• Protect yourself from direct sunlight by applying sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. In addition to causing pain and damaging your skin, sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. Wearing a hat and sunglasses provides further protection.

• Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothes when outdoors for extended periods of time.

• Check on elderly relatives or neighbors at least once a day.

• Allow yourself to gradually become acclimated to a hot environment.

• Try to schedule outdoor activities in the coolest part of the day. Morning-time temperatures in East Texas are still typically in the upper 70s (and sometimes even higher), so do not throw all caution to the wind. If you become lightheaded, confused, weak and faint, get in a cool area and rest.

• Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets and leave it in a shady area.

Hopefully these tips will help ensure that we all have a safe and enjoyable summer.