Heat can be a killer if you don’t take precautions. June and July’s weather has been oppressive in most parts of Arkansas and there’s more hot weather ahead of us. Here are some tips to survive summer heat waves.

What does hyperthermia look like?

Hot weather, especially if combined with outdoor activities, makes it hard for our bodies to stay cool. Hyperthermia occurs when the body’s heat-regulating processes fail. It means the body’s temperature is dangerously high. Hyperthermia includes heat stroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or fatigue, or dizziness from prolonged exposure to the heat.

The symptoms can include:

  • Lack of sweating
  • Dry flushed skin
  • Strong rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Staggering or stumbling
  • Confusion or combativeness
  • High temperature – heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature hits 1040

Hyperthermia, according to the National Institutes of Health, is more likely to occur if you are:

  • Dehydrated – if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated
  • Older, especially if you have one or more chronic conditions or poor blood circulation
  • Overweight
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages
  • A patient with heart, lung or kidney disease
  • Ill with a fever and/or have general weakness
  • On a salt-restricted diet or have high blood pressure
  • Taking medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and blood pressure drugs
  • Exercising or working outside during the hottest part of the day

Cooling tips

Here’s how to stay cool and survive Arkansas’ infamous heat-humidity combo:

  • Don’t ignore heat and humidity. Older people and the young, as well as those with chronic conditions are more vulnerable and should take precautions during hot weather.
  • Check the weather forecast before going outside for longer than an hour or if you plan outdoor exercise or strenuous outdoor activities. The National Weather Service calculates the heat index in the shade. If you are in sunlight, add as much as 15 degrees to get a more accurate reading.
  • Stay indoors in an air-conditioned place when the heat and humidity combine to push the heat index over 900 People not used to the heat should cancel strenuous outdoor activities when the heat index tops 860 F. People who are not used to (acclimated) the heat can risk heat sickness when the heat index is above 820 F. Danger is higher when air pollution is high. Generally, the hottest part of the day is noon to about 4 p.m.
  • If your home isn’t air conditioned, go to an enclosed shopping mall, library, movie theatre, public cooling center, or visit family or friends who have air conditioning. The most crucial hours to be in air-conditioning are generally noon to 6 p.m.
  • Try these tips to stay cooler: Go to the lowest level in your home (because heat rises); avoid cooking during the daytime; wet towels or bandannas and place them on your shoulders or head; close curtains, blinds and windows during the day, opening them at night when the night air is cooler than inside air; sit in the path of a box fan that blows across a pan filled with ice.
  • Avoid alcohol, sugary sodas or other caffeinated beverages because they will make dehydration worse.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid large, protein-rich foods because they raise your internal temperature.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing that is made of breathable fabrics like cotton or linen.


Emergency precautions

Do these things if you suspect someone is suffering from a heat-related problem:

  • Get him or her out of the heat and into a shady area or air-conditioned place.
  • Urge the person to lie down.
  • Apply a cold, wet cloth to the neck, wrists, armpits and groin areas for fastest cooling of the blood.
  • Help him or her to bathe or sponge off with cool water.
  • If able to swallow safely, offer cool water, fruit or vegetable juices. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • If you suspect heat stroke, or the person becomes unresponsive or has trouble breathing, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Don’t forget your pets

Outdoor pets suffer during hot weather. Dogs and cats can overheat quickly and it’s easy to miss the warning signs. Older pets and overweight animals are more vulnerable to heat illness. Dogs shed extra body heat through their mouths by panting. Cats shed heat by panting and through the pads of their feet.

Taking a dog on a walk or any outdoor activity when the heat index is high can be dangerous. Dogs cannot get rid of the extra heat and their internal temperature rises to a dangerous level. This can cause seizures, internal organ failure and even death. Never walk a dog on hot concrete or asphalt because it can sear their paws. Early morning and after sunset are the best times to walk a dog during hot weather.

Watch for these danger signs of overheating in a dog:

  • Panting excessively
  • Seeking water
  • Lying down or unwilling to keep going
  • Deep red gums and tongue are signs of heatstroke

If your dog shows any signs of overheating, get him into cool water – a creek, fountain, bathtub – immediately. If distress continues, take him to a veterinarian immediately because organ failure can happen quickly and is irreversible.

Warning signs of an overheated cat include:

  • Restless behavior as their try to find a cool spot
  • Panting
  • Sweaty feet
  • Drooling
  • Excessive grooming as they try to cool off

Symptoms of heat exhaustion in a cat include:

  • Rapid pulse and breathing
  • Deep red tongue and mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Stumbling or staggering

Move the cat to a cool, quiet place and offer plenty of water. If your cat is showing signs of heat exhaustion, soak him in cool water, keeping nose and mouth above water. Let him drink all the water he wants. Take him to a veterinarian immediately if the symptoms don’t stop.

PHOTO: BY:  tihomir_todorov / iStock / Getty Images Plus