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It's Going to be a Hot One Out There

The temperature here is expected to hit the mid-nineties today. That may sound hot to you, and it may not. It depends on what you're used to, I guess. But the heat is nothing to take lightly, so keep your cool, relax, and have a read.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it doesn't generally get this hot. My biggest concern from the heat this time of year is probably sunburn rather than heat exhaustion. When out shooting before sunrise, I'm happy doing my thing. But as the morning progresses, it's easy to forget to put on sunscreen. By midmorning, the light becomes harsh enough, and I grow tired enough from having woken up so early, that, that I pause to catch my breath. It's only then that I realize I've started to get a sunburn. I know that if I put on suntan lotion with a strong SPF when I first get up, I'll be fine all morning long, but it just doesn't come naturally to do so at that ungodly hour when it's still pitch black outside. I'm trying, and I get it right more often than not, but there are lapses, and I pay the price. Ouch.

But there are worse problems the sun and the heat can bring than sunburn. Heat exhaustion can cause problems even if you have an all-over tan. Heatstroke or sunstroke can be worse still.

Heat exhaustion occurs when your body can't regulate temperature any longer. To keep cool, our bodies sweat, allowing that sweat to evaporate. But there are limits. Especially on humid days, sweat evaporation has a diminished effect, and things start to get complicated. Even though you may feel hot, your skin will seem cool and clammy. Your pulse rate may increase, and you will feel tired and weak even when sitting still. You may already be experiencing cramping, especially if you do exert yourself. You may begin to feel dizzy and could even pass out or faint.

As with my sunburn difficulties, you may not realize this is happening at the outset, but eventually, it can become all too obvious. If you find this describes your situation, take heed. Drink more fluids, and perhaps even wet your clothes with cool water. Move to an area out of the sun and take it easy. If you don't, things could get worse and develop into heatstroke.

In heatstroke, your body temperature can reach 103 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Your skin will feel as if you have a fever, which, in fact, you do. Your skin can become reddened and damp. As the condition becomes worse, it could feel dry as sweating shuts down. You will probably have a bad headache and nausea. Your heart will be racing as it tries in vain to get rid of the heat in your bloodstream. As conditions worsen, you will become confused and unable to think clearly. Once temperature regulation fails, you're well into dangerous territory. Medical attention is called for.

The climate you're used to, together with your overall physical condition and age dictate how well you can cope with the heat. Physical exertion plays a factor, too. And some medications can have an impact on how well you handle the heat. The best thing to do is to take steps beforehand to avoid problems to the extent you can. As with putting on sunscreen before the sun comes up, you want to be prepared. Please don't wait until it's too late. Drink plenty of fluids. Wear light-colored clothes that reflect the heat rather than absorb it. Limit your activity during the hottest portion of the day. Wear a hat with a brim to keep the sun off your head and face. But most importantly, understand the risks and danger signs before they happen to you.

Temperatures everywhere seem to be creeping up over the years. Whether you believe in "global warming" and "climate change" or not, it's happening anyway. Denial won't make it go away. Even if you've never had a problem with heat, we're all getting older. And the climate is indeed changing.

As I write this, it's pushing ninety degrees already. It's going to be a hot one out there.


Date posted: August 16, 2020

 

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Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
 

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