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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Safety corner

How to avoid hot-weather problems

Let’s put the energy efficiency tips aside for a moment: we’re entering the summer season. Individuals concerned about lowering their utility bills, or people eager to do a good turn for the environment by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes, should pause and consider just how fortunate we are, during summer heat waves, to have such luxuries as air-conditioning.

This year, the EIA estimates that we will need to use air-conditioning less in the summer of 2009 than last year. This may be for any number of reasons: Climate change, or not. Sun spots (or rather, the lack of sun spots). El Nino, or La Nina.

Whatever, use the A/C when the weather turns nasty, hot and humid.

Senior citizens are at greater risk during heat waves. Also, those with heart and circulatory problems, kidney problems, respiratory illnesses, skin diseases, obesity or fever are at the greatest risk. You need to pay attention to your health, or the health of your loved ones, during hot summer days.

Temperatures just above 90 degrees Fahrenheit can be the most dangerous, especially when humidity is also high. But there are steps that everyone can take to reduce the risk of heat stress. During hot weather, keep cool by considering the following steps:
  • Spending as much time as possible in cooler surroundings. You can spend as much time as possible in a cooler room in your home, an air-conditioned shopping mall, a senior center, public library or movie theater.
  • Using an air-conditioner. This is especially important for people with special medical conditions, such as heart disease.
  • Running a fan to draw cool air into the home at night and provide good indoor air circulation during the day. Air movement reduces heat stress by helping to remove extra body heat. However, remember that when it is extremely hot, a fan may cause a gain in body heat by blowing very hot air over the body.
  • Taking a cool bath or shower, with the water temperature around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool water removes extra body heat 25 times faster than cool air.
  • Wearing as little as possible when at home.
  • Drinking water often. Do not wait until you feel thirsty. However if you or a loved one have a medical condition that may affect water balance, you should check with your doctor for advice on how much water you should drink in hot weather.
  • Slowing down. This is especially important at the start of a heat wave when you body is less prepared for the high temperatures
  • Watching what you eat. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals. They add to your body heat.
  • Avoiding alcohol. Alcohol interferes with your body's fight against heat stress and can put a strain on your heart.
Whatever you, be sure to use that air-conditioning if you have it. And if you do not have air-conditioning, don‘t forget to look for an emergency cooling center.

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