Summer: Can you stand the heat?

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As I See It

BY ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

During our Grand American Road trip spanning four adjoining sates two weeks ago, we passed by Baker, the gateway to the Death Valley where the world’s tallest thermometer is located. It’s not a giant tube filled with mercury, but a tower displaying a digital readout. The thermometer is 134 feet (40 m) tall, one foot for each degree of the North American record temperature of 134°F (57C). Easily it can be viewed from the highway and a stop into town is not necessary. The thermometer registered 111 degrees Fahrenheit when we were there.

Wow, it was hot! We thought that was it in the area, only to find out its everywhere we went ranging from 100 to 115. Then we realized, its summer time!

Yes, can we stand the summer heat? What do we do when we suffer heat stroke? One is prune to ask these questions this time of the year.

When the mercury rises above 100 degrees, it affects us deeply, both body and mind. In fact, it is deadly when it sends those affected to emergency hospitals complaining of cramps and exhaustion, and worst, heat strokes or heat attacks.

I remember my wife saying: Put the air conditioning on… the electric fan! Let’s go to the mall! This is a temporary relief… but we need to face it. Its summer time! We have to contend with it!

According to Dr. Matthew Walsh, Thomason Hospital in El Paso, Texas, contained in the article written by Martin Downs, MPH, Surviving Summer Scorchers, “Heat stroke is the one we’re most concerned about. Heart stroke victims are often near death. They’re treated the same as heart attacks or strokes or trauma patients.”

Walsh said the cause of heat stroke is simple: being too hot for too long. If sweating isn’t enough to cool you down, your body temperature rises rapidly, up to 106 degrees in as little as 10 or 15 minutes. That’s hot enough to literally cook your brain. You pass out, and if you’re not treated immediately, you will suffer brain damage or die. When heat stroke victims are wheeled into the ER, doctors try to cool them by stripping off all their clothes, blowing air over them with fans (it also helps that ERs are air conditioned) and bathing them with lukewarm water. You would think it would be best to douse them with ice-cold water, but water that’s too cold causes shivering which actually warms the body more.”

In most extreme case, “Doctors will put the victim on a respirator and give them a drug to paralyze the body so they can bring the temperature down quickly,” Walsh added.

That’s what I was worried about with my wife during the road trip because she suffers vertigo every time we go for a vacation spoiling the planned activities. That’s what happened to almost all our vacations in the past but this time, she didn’t suffer vertigo, which to me was a miracle. Of course, she learned her lessons by drinking medicine before every trip and staying away from activities that entails climbing stairs, trekking mountains, navigating long trails, or going for long walks.

To survive the heat, Marlin Krishna, RN, Health and Wellness Manager of San Jose Job Corps Center (SJJC) in her memo to all concerned, said find air conditioning; avoid strenuous activities; watch for heat illness; wear light clothing; check on family members and neighbors; drink plenty of fluids; watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stoke; and never have people or pets in a closed car.

Recognizing and responding to heat-related issues, signs of heat cramps include muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs.

Action needed is to go to a cooler location and remove excess clothing.

Also take sips of cool sports drinks with a salt and sugar. Then get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.

As to heat exhaustion, Krishna said signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle crumps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headaches, nausea or vomiting, or fainting. If this happens, go to an air-conditioning place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with a salt \and sugar. Then get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.

How about heat stroke? Signs include extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees) taken orally; red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness. If this happens, heed to call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.

One thing I noticed which attracted my attention of the tips given by nurses and doctors is: not using electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees. According to them, this could increase the risk of heat-related illness. They said fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature. I didn’t know that! Thanks for explaining the reason why we have to avoid doing it.

Avoiding the summer heat wave calls for discipline and religiously following tips doctors and other medical personnel tell us. This way, we can always prepare ourselves once we become victims of these circumstances.

During our 10-day road trip to four adjoining states of California-Nevada-Arizona-Utah, we were lucky we survived the heat wave. We thanked the Lord for taking care of us. Of course we were advised of the things we need to do during activities like this. We consulted our family doctor before venturing on this type of activity for the first time.

It paid off!

Let’s baet the heat this summer!

(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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