Unless this is your first June in the Venice area, you know that we’re already into summer despite what the calendar says. And if it is your first June here, you probably knew it too.
The bad news, whether you’re a newcomer, a native or someone in between, is that the heat will continue for about another six months or so. The worse news is that pretty soon it will be accompanied by humidity that matches the temperature.
The worst news is that excessive heat can be fatal, with the elderly, people with heart or circulatory problems or long-term illnesses and people who take medications that alter sweat production are particularly vulnerable, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
The good news — yes, there is some — is that heat-related conditions are fairly easy to prevent by following some common-sense tips.
It’s important, though, to start outdoor activity with prevention in mind, because as the NSC notes, “heat-related illnesses can escalate rapidly.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips to avoid heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke:
• Limit your time outdoors, especially during the hottest part of the day. That’s between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Pace yourself, taking frequent breaks out of the sun. Air conditioning is the best way to cool off.
• Drink more liquid than you think you need, but avoid alcohol. You can replenish lost salt with fruit juice or sports drinks.
• Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and a hat.
• Wear sunscreen and lip balm. Sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself.
Here’s what the NSC says to do if the heat gets to someone, depending on the severity of its impact.
Heat cramps are muscle spasms that usually affect the legs or abdominal muscles. If a person has pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs after exertion outdoors, have him or her sit or lie down in the shade; drink cool water or a sports drink; and stretch the affected muscles.
Seek medical attention if the person has heart problems or if the cramps don’t get better in an hour.
Heat exhaustion can set in when the body loses an excessive amount of salt and water. Symptoms can include severe thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and, sometimes, diarrhea.
Other symptoms include profuse sweating; clammy or pale skin; dizziness; rapid pulse; and normal or slightly elevated body temperature. Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heatstroke.
Move the victim to a shaded or air-conditioned area; give him or her water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages; and apply wet towels or have him or her take a cool shower.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related condition, so it requires immediate medical attention.
Symptoms include flushed skin that is very hot to the touch; rapid breathing; headache, dizziness, confusion or irrational behavior; and convulsions or unresponsiveness. The victim also will likely have stopped sweating.
Call 911 immediately. Move the victim to a cool place; remove his or her outer clothing and immediately cool the victim with any means at hand, preferably by immersing up to the neck in cold water, with help.
If immersion in cold water is not possible, place the victim in a cold shower or move him or her to a cool area and cover as much of the body as possible with cold, wet towels.
Do not try to force the victim to drink liquids. Monitor the victim’s breathing and be ready to give CPR if needed.
But that’s first aid. The important thing is not to get to that point, whether you’re out in the sun for work or a leisure activity.
Stay cool, stay hydrated and stay alive.