Apparently Europe and the UK and parts of the US and/or Canada – so, like, a lot of the northern hemisphere – are experiencing an unusually hot summer and people are getting sick and sad over there. This post is a basic guide to taking care of yourself, dependents and pets in the heat over summer.
Reblog this one if you can, please. I haven’t seen anybody really discussing comprehensively the dangers of heat and I have here a bunch of stuff I’ve put together. My sources are at the end under the cut.
Obviously super hot weather is unpleasant for everybody, but some people struggle more with it.
Vulnerable people to keep an eye on:
- Really young people
- Really old people
- People with ongoing conditions (diabetes, respiratory problems, etc)
- People who have to do serious physical activity in the heat or work outdoors etc.,
- People who are socially isolated – not directly related to heat, but if they get sick quite quickly they might not be able to call for help. Check in on socially isolated people please!
The other people who are at risk from heat-related stuff are people who are not used to extreme heat - this actually covers a number of the places that are currently having really high temperatures! Keep an eye out for each other. The most important thing is to be aware that heat can be really dangerous. It’s not about being tough, either – acclimatisation to heat makes you better at dealing with heat. If you’re not used to it, it can be dangerous. Don’t let people give you shit.
Health risks specific to extreme heat worth knowing about:
Heat rash feels like
- itchy and sore
- tiny red blisters
- probably in areas where you sweat a lot
This is common in kids and happens when you sweat a lot. Might upset you if you have kids and you haven’t seen it before, though it’s not usually dangerous.
Dry out the area. Go somewhere less humid if you can. Sometimes people say powders can help to dry the area out.
Don’t do any of the things that might keep your skin hot and moist (including things like creams, etc.,)
Dehydration feels like
- dizzy and headachy and tired
- when it’s bad you might faint
- if you feel sick in the heat, even if you’re not thirsty, this might be a part of it
This happens when you don’t have enough water.
Drink water, obviously. However, if you feel really sick, diluted fruit juice may be better - the sugars help balance out some chemical shit.
Don’t drink booze or coffee right now, no matter how much you’d like to.
Cramps feel like
- muscle pain and weird spasming
- sweating a lot
You’ve probably had cramps before because they happen when you’re not in the heat, too, obviously. But specifically they can happen if you’re doing physical stuff and you sweat out too much water and salt, which is so much more likely in hot weather.
Stop what you’re doing because it’s hurting you. Drink water or, as above, diluted fruit juice. Get out of the sun if at all possible. It might be a good time to try a cool bath or shower, too.
Do not keep doing intense activity. Even after your cramps have stopped, don’t go back to doing that kind of activity for a couple hours or you’ll probably land yourself back where you started.
Heat exhaustion feels like
- tiredness, weakness, dizziness
- shallow breathing, fast pulse
- nausea and vomiting
This is serious. You must take some steps to prevent this from getting worse.
Stop whatever you’re doing. Go somewhere cool and lie down. Remove anything you’re wearing that you don’t need to be. Drink cool fluids in small sips. Take a cool shower or bath. Put a cold pack on the back of your neck. If you’re alone consider telling somebody - call, text or IM them - and make sure they know to call for help if you don’t check in with them at a pre-arranged time. An hour or two is a good time limit.
Don’t stay in the sun. Don’t feel ridiculous for telling people you feel any of the above things.
If you can’t get the symptoms to stop over an hour, call for help.
Heat stroke feels and/or looks like
- this person has stopped sweating
- high temperature; hot, dry skin; really intense thirst
- dry swollen tongue
- fast pulse and fast shallow breathing
- headache, dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, shitty coordination, fainting
- getting weird and aggressive or acting really strange (…as compared to the person’s regular behaviour)
- nausea and vomiting
This is an emergency. This person needs help immediately, so do not hesitate to act on this one.
Call an ambulance. This person needs help now. Move the person to any area that isn’t as hot. Have them lie down and elevate the feet if possible. Remove excess clothing. Try to keep them still. If they are conscious, help them drink cool fluids in small sips. Put a cold pack on the back of their neck.
If the person loses consciousness, lay them in the recovery position. The recovery position looks like this.
For if you have or you’re caring for really small children
In really young kids, dehydration looks like this:
- crying or irritable, tired and lethargic
- high temperature
- dry tongue and mouth
- fewer wet nappies than usual
- not eating or drinking
- vomits or has diarrhoea
- Breastfeeding - Your child needs more frequent feeding, but keep in mind that you also need to consume more fluids. You should ideally have a cool drink at every feed.
- Bottle feeding - offer your child cool water after each bottle.
Things to remember:
Do not leave your child alone in your car. Preferably ever, but definitely not on a very hot day. Children die from this with astonishing frequency. Where I live, over summer in 2014, we had ambulance staff reporting that they were called out to tend kids left in cars on average four times a day. Don’t do it.
- Don’t leave babies to sleep in a pram. They’re hot and they don’t have great air circulation.
- Sunscreen. Seriously. Burnt skin gets hot and means your kid dehydrates faster.
- Babies have thin skin, and some research suggests that babies under six months might not respond well to having sunscreen put all over them. If you have a very young child, cover them in loose, light, breathable clothing and put small amounts of sunscreen on the face, hands and exposed bits instead to minimize this risk.
Working out or playing sport
- Wear breathable and lightweight clothing, preferably of some pale colour (darker colours absorb heat)
- Put on sunscreen
- Wear a hat or a visor
- Drink plenty of fluids - water or diluted fruit juice is best
If you’re working out or doing sport in the heat, you’re going to lose water a lot faster. It’s recommended that after your game or event you weigh yourself – a loss of a kilogram indicates a loss of one litre of fluids, so if you find you’ve lost weight after the event you should increase your fluid intake next time. An ounce of prevention, you know?
- Some animals are really prone to suffering in the heat. Make sure they always have access to water and shade. This is one hundred per cent non-negotiable.
- Ideally let them stay inside when it’s hot.
Don’t leave your dog in your car. It can overheat and die in less than six minutes in the wrong circumstances. Don’t do it. If you see an animal left in a car unattended you may be able to report the owner for abuse depending where you are. If you can, you should.
- Small pets are often really susceptible to heat. If you can’t let them out to run around on your (hopefully cool) tiles, you could drape their cages with wet towels and provide a frozen water bottle for them to lean on as necessary.
- Cats are actually pretty good at regulating their temperature, but if they get into trouble, it’s worth knowing that they control some of their body temperature through their feet. You might try wetting its feet.
- Take your shoes off and put your feet on the footpath outside. Ouch! If it’s too hot for you, it’s probably too hot for your dog. They might have thicker skin, but their paws are one of the ways they regulate their temperature.
- When you do walk your dog, you might be better off doing it in the early morning. Hopefully the whole night has been enough time for things to get slightly cooler. If you have access, your pet might appreciate a beach or creek in the heat.
- If you have a bird, don’t saturate all its feathers. You can help cool it down by wetting its feet, but saturating all its feathers can be bad for birds.
- Horses and livestock are pretty heat resilient most of the time, but you should definitely make sure they have access to shade and extra water.
- If you’re worried about local wildlife, you could leave a small bowl of water in your yard to help them stay hydrated and keep cool.
- Keep up your fluids. Even if you’re not thirsty, you should make sure you’re drinking enough!
- Limit physical activity, rest often and stay in the shade as much as possible
- Limit your use of the oven or stove because they make things really hot
- Remember that your computer might be a serious source of heat and definitely turn it off when you’re not using it
- There are some places that are usually air conditioned: public libraries, cinemas, shopping centres.
- Make sure you wear breathable lightweight clothes - preferably of some paler colour - sunscreen and a hat.
- Icy water will make your blood vessels constrict to retain heat. If you’re cooling off with a bath or a shower, it should be cool and not freezing.
- Frozen peas make a good, cheap cold pack. I wouldn’t eat them afterwards, though.
Remember to check in with people who might be in trouble in the heat, and please remember that extreme heat can be dangerous. People who say they feel really sick and thirsty do not necessarily just need to “harden up”. They might actually need help!
Sources under the cut.