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Here Comes the Sun: 'Beating the Heat' Guide

August 3, 2006
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Hot enough for ya?

People in the Philadelphia region need to take special precautions against prolonged heat plaguing the area the past week or so. Stagnant atmospheric conditions often trap pollutants, mixing unhealthy air with excessively hot temperatures. Asphalt and concrete may store heat longer as well, gradually releasing it at night.

These higher temperatures create a potent blend of heat and chemicals called the "urban heat-island effect." Health risks are increased, especially for those with any respiratory difficulties.

According to the American Red Cross, a variety of ways exist to "beat the heat," including the consumption of fluids and taking advantage of comfort afforded by air-conditioners.

Consider these tips:

· Never leave children alone in closed vehicles. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can top 140 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes. Exposure to such high temperatures can kill.

· Use your air-conditioning. There are ways to maximize how it can work for you: Install window air-conditioners snugly, and check ducts for proper insulation. Vacuum air-conditioner filters weekly during periods of high use to provide more cool air. And make sure your home is properly insulated. This will help conserve electricity and reduce your home's power demands for air-conditioning.

· Stay inside. Be indoors as much as possible, on the lowest floor and out of the sunshine. Keep heat outside and cool air inside, closing any doors or windows that may allow heat in. Consider keeping storm windows installed throughout the year to keep the heat out of a house. Plan to check on family, friends and neighbors, especially the elderly, who spend much of their time alone.

· Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps maintain a normal body temperature. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and the overwarming effects of sunlight on your body. Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, which will keep direct sunlight off your head and face.

· Drink plenty of fluids. Injury and death can occur from dehydration, which can happen quickly and go unnoticed. Symptoms of dehydration are often confused with other causes. Your body needs water to keep cool. Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies.

· Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They make you feel good briefly, but make the heat's effects on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which actually dehydrates the body. People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, who are on fluid-restrictive diets or who have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.

· Slow down, and reschedule strenuous activities. Get plenty of rest to allow your natural cooling system to work. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.

· Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat. Partners can keep an eye on each other and assist each other when needed. Sometimes, exposure to heat can cloud judgment. Chances are if you work alone, you may not notice this. 

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