LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Summer is here and with it is the expectation of the notorious Arkansas triple-digit heat.
Arkansans going out and about this summer should know how to stay healthy as the thermometer starts to get the above-average numbers expected for the 2023 summer.
The effects of heat can come up on somebody quickly and can be debilitating.
SIGNS OF HEAT ILLNESS
Heat is the leading cause of death due to weather conditions, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reporting that 375 people died and 67 were injured in the U.S. in 2021 from weather-related excessive heat.
The Centers for Disease Control groups heat illness into three categories by severity: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat cramps are the first sign of heat illness and usually are seen as muscle cramps and spasms in the legs and abdomen coupled with heavy sweating.
If heat cramps happen, experts recommend applying pressure or massaging the muscles affected and giving the person with the cramps sips of water. If they complain about the water giving them nausea, stop. If the cramps last over an hour, head for the hospital.
Heat exhaustion is more dire. People affected will sweat heavily and feel weak or tired. They could also have cool, pale and clammy skin, a weak pulse with dizziness, nausea or being physically ill.
If someone is experiencing heat exhaustion, it is recommended to move them to a cooler place, hopefully one that’s air-conditioned, loosen their clothing or, if possible, put them into a cool bath. You can also offer them sips of water, but if they become physically ill or the symptoms run over an hour, get them to the hospital.
Heat stroke is the worst case. Someone experiencing heat stroke will a throbbing headache, upset stomach and a body temperature above 103 degrees with red skin and a fast, strong, pulse.
This is serious and can be fatal, so the best advice from experts is to call 911 or otherwise get the victim to the hospital right away. If you can get them to an air-conditioned place, or a cool bath, it would help.
The Arkansas Department of Health also reminds of the danger of sunburn and heat rash. For these, stay out of the sun, put on cool clothes and use moisturizing lotion or take a cool bath.
A fan will actually make you hotter at higher temperatures, especially in a dry heat. Experts say a fan doesn’t make you cooler since it is blowing more hot air and not lowering temperature.
The same experts point out that a fan is some help when it is humid, since it provides relief from sweat despite not cooling the air.
Ultimately, two bits of advice are the most common for dealing with hot weather. The first is to avoid the heat, and the second is to be careful to drink enough water.
AVOID THE HEAT
The CDC recommends a number of tactics to help avoid getting too hot, including wearing lightweight loose-fitting clothes and staying in the air conditioning when possible.
For those that have to go out in the heat, the agency recommends scheduling outdoor events during the morning or evening when it’s cooler.
For those out during the highest temperatures, experts say pacing yourself and keeping an eye on the people you are working with can help people keep each other heat safe.
The CDC has a three-tiered solution to staying hydrated.
The first thing is to start drinking water before the time comes to get in the heat. The second tier is to keep the water going once you’re out in the heat. The CDC points out that it’s important to drink before you get thirsty and to drink about three-quarters to a quart of water an hour.
Finally, hydrate after you are out of the heat. Fluids still need to be replenished, and keeping the hydration going puts less strain on your body.
While there may be a lot of drink options people may reach for on a hot day, water is, on-the-whole, the best for hydration. Drinks with sugar or caffeine can counter hydration benefits, and drinks with alcohol can actually increase dehydration.
STAYING SAFE WITH HOT CARS
Any discussion about heat and safety needs to include the dangers of hot cars. Cars heat up very quickly in the sun. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration notes that the inside of a car on a 75-degree day can quickly reach 105 degrees.
This is especially dangerous for children since their body temp rises three to five times quicker than adults. According to NoHeatStroke.org, eight children have died in hot cars so far in 2023, with 33 children dying in 2022.
It is strongly advised never to leave a child in an unattended car and make it a habit to check the car before walking away if a child was inside. Placing a personal item like a purse or briefcase in the backseat can help prompt a backseat check. It is also recommended that drivers lock their cars so a child can’t climb into it when it’s unattended.
For the latest weather conditions in the area, check the forecast from the Arkansas Storm Team.