For most of my life, I’ve lived in places where summers were uncomfortable, and occasionally intolerable. Muggy heat makes me almost claustrophobic at times.
The National Weather Service has given us an additional measuring tool, the heat index. But I hated the heat index. It’s already hot. Do I really need to be reminded that it feels worse than it actually is?
Missouri, summers were torture. Starting in late May, temperatures would rise into the upper 90s and frequently topping triple digits.
The humid air would trudge in from the Gulf of Mexico, adding to the already-high temperatures. I couldn’t walk from the driveway to the front door without breaking a sweat.
When we moved to the Laurel Highlands seven years ago, I truly thought I had died and gone to heaven. The summers were mild. Ninety-degree days were downright rare and the humidity didn’t hold a candle to Missouri. The nights cooled down nicely.
It was always a pleasant way to pass a summer, although frequent trips to Pittsburgh and the DC area kept me in touch with reality.
We have had some hot spells, generally short-lived. But not this year.
Over the last 10 days, temperatures have ventured into the 90s and this quasi-rain forest has been very dry. The combination has left our yards turning brown and our gardens panting.
Several years ago, I stopped putting the window air conditioners in. Part of that was the effort involved in carrying them down from the attic and installing them. They’re bulky and heavy, and to be honest, my back hurts just thinking about it. Really though, in the past few years, we haven’t needed them but maybe one or two days out of the whole summer.
But in looking down the road at the extended forecast, it seems that this hot spell is going to be with us for a while, anyway.
So how does one cope with these uncomfortable days? There are several things you can do.
First, stay hydrated. Drink water or sport drinks that contain electrolytes, and a lot of it. Stay in the shade as much as possible, in fact try to limit your exposure to the heat by doing things early in the morning or later in the evening.
People who exercise outside need to pay particular attention to this one.
In fact, it would be better to dial back the intensity of your workouts, or go to the gym instead. Heat exhaustion can sneak up on you, and since it affects your cognitive processes, you may not even be aware of the danger.
If you don’t have air conditioning (or like me, too lazy to put the darn things in) use fans. If it gets too oppressive, go somewhere that is cooler, like a store, or shopping mall, or somewhere else where you can get out of the heat for a while.
You can wet a cloth and lay it across the back of your neck or on your forehead. Since most of the heat leaves the body through the head, this will help accelerate that process.
Wear cool clothing. Cotton is a good choice, in light colors. Dark colors absorb heat, making the wearer even more uncomfortable.
Limit your alcohol consumption. Load up on cool fresh fruits. Some suggest freezing some chunks of fruit and eating that as a way of cooling your innards.
Monitor yourself for these symptoms:
Heat exhaustion, or when the body struggles to regulate its own temperature through sweating:
Pale appearance with cool, moist skin; profuse sweating; muscle cramps or pain; feeling faint or dizzy; a headache, weakness, thirst and nausea.
Heat stroke, when the body has lost the ability to regulate temperature: A markedly abnormal mental state, or unconsciousness; skin that is flushed, hot, and dry; possible hyperventilation, and core temperature of 105 or higher
While both are serious, heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and needs immediate emergency care.
If you come across someone with the symptoms of heat stroke, call 911 and move the person to a cool area, at least a shaded place.
Loosen tight clothing and cool them by sponging them with cool water or wrapping them in wet sheets.
The Mayo Clinic websites states that the victim can have some cool water, or other non-alcoholic or non-caffeine drinks.
Take special care during these hot days and think cool thoughts.
Like memories of Snowmageddon.