Dealing With Extreme Heat Waves
Summer is not even a month old, and I’m channeled into the Weather Channel, looking at my ‘feels like’ temperature outside my door. It’s reported at 85°. At 6 AM! What the? An Extreme Heat Wave is currently engulfing the country, and I’m in it.
At least ten heat records were broken in the Southwest and the central United States alone over a short weekend, with more predicted to fall in the coming week.
How do we deal with these heat waves that can be as deadly as a sub-zero cold front?
We have to be aware of the following:
- Heat symptoms
- Health effects
- How to keep yourself and the house cool
- Adjusting our wardrobe
- Understanding what happens during exercise in this stuff
How Does Extreme Heat Happen
So, how and why do we deserve any of this extreme heat?
Whether you believe in global warming or not, you can’t disagree on the severity of the heat out there. An extreme heat wave is a dangerous weather condition where temperatures will soar well above 90° F.
This high heat and high humidity levels can create a heat bubble over our heads for an extended period.
A heat wave is caused by a robust high pressure of air settling in at 10,000-25,000 ft. and deciding to hang around for a while. This will push warm air to sink.
The result is a dome of hot air that will trap the heat near the ground and prevent cooling displacement currents from forming clouds.
The temperature of a heat wave is over 90° F with high humidity, giving us that ‘feels like’ temperature, making it feel much more uncomfortable.
What To Do In An Excessive Heat Warning
An excessive heat warning is a heat index of 105 °F or greater, lasting at least 2 hours or more. Understanding what you should or should not be doing during extreme heat waves is essential.
Extreme heat and humidity will challenge your body’s ability to cool itself.
Knowing the signs of excessive heat exposure and how to treat heat-related illnesses will be valuable. Knowing the warning signs for heat stroke and heat exhaustion and the differences between the two can help you protect yourself and those around you.
It’s important to understand that those at most significant risk of heat illness will be people 65 or older, under the age of 5, and those living with chronic diseases or mental illness.
But we should all be:
- Drinking more water
- Utilizing air conditioning
- Limiting outdoor activity
- Spending time in the shade when outside
- Cooling off in a pool or under a hose
Extreme Heat Symptoms And Health Effects
First, we should point out just how heat-related severe illness is. It kills more than 600 people in the United States every year, according to the CDC
Let’s talk about hypothermia.
This is a condition caused by exercising in extreme heat. A combination of high heat and humidity can lead to heat-related illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and possible death. General symptoms:
- Heavy sweating
- Painful muscle cramps
- Extreme weakness and/or fatigue
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Dizziness and/or headache
- Body temperature normal or slightly high
- Sudden dizziness
- Heat Rash (Prickly Heat)
Hey, tough guy, or girl, get out of the heat.
Keeping A House Cool In Extreme Heat
The cost of living is not bad enough, and now we must beat the crap out of our air conditioners.
But it has to be done. It will be a lot cheaper than a hospital stay. But before you start beating up that air conditioner and your electric bill, consider these tips:
- Close your curtains and blinds to keep out heat and sunlight.
- Door discipline. Keep those exterior doors closed when not in use. And that means closing them while you go in and out to unload your car.
- Use fans
- Set your ceiling fans to rotate counterclockwise if you have them. This will create a breeze and circulates cool air downward.
Back to that air conditioner. Before the hot weather creeps in:
- Make sure shrubs are not restricting airflow on the outside unit. 2-3 feet away on all sides.
- Get it tuned up by a professional
- Have a programmable thermostat installed. That will allow you to make small adjustments to your A/C unit’s on-off cycles.
- Get it tuned up by a professional
- Change your filters at least once a month.
How Do You Keep House Cool Without Air Conditioning
You know that the air conditioner will crap out when you will need it the most.
So, what do you do while waiting for that overworked service tech?
As mentioned, closing your blinds and curtains during the day will significantly help. Along with door discipline and fans.
But, here is a very big but:
When temperatures exceed 90°, your fans will not be such a good idea. All you will be doing is blowing that hot air on yourself.
So Here Are 7 Tips For Cooling That House Down During Extreme Heat Waves:
- There was a time before air conditioning. And if you had electricity, you had fans. And you most likely had ice. So, an old-fashioned hack comes into play in the 21st century. Put some ice trays in front of that table fan and be amazed. That will give you some instant relief.
- Insulate your windows with window film. Window film is a thin laminate that you can apply to the inside or outside of the glass surface. It can provide up to 95% infrared heat reduction from the outside. And a bonus: it will offer you some privacy from those looking outside in.
- Cross ventilation. If you have some windows and doors in an upwind, or downwind situation, open them up. A breeze from one side will exit the other, giving you and the family some cooling air movement.
- Exhaust fans. From the simple crank up that kitchen exhaust fan to the more complex such as an attic fan. Also known as ‘whole house fans,’ they will create a rapid air exchange, which could make a beneficial breeze. They also use a fraction of electricity as that of an air conditioner. And when that air conditioner works, it will not have to work as hard. You will save some electricity, and that house fan will pay for itself.
- Incandescent Lights. Get rid of them. 90% of their energy is heating. Who wants that now? Switching to compact fluorescent lamps and more efficient LEDs can cool your home while also lowering your energy bill.
- During the coolness of the evening, when you should be using the dishwasher and time spent doing laundry.
- Try to stay downstairs. Since hot air rises, the upper stories of your house will be warmer than the ground floor. A basement is the best bet because it can be a cool escape from the midday and nighttime heat.
Keeping Yourself Cool In Extreme Heat
We talked about your house cooling during these extreme heat waves, but how about you? Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to your personal health and well-being during any heat wave:
- Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine.
- Don’t eat large, especially protein-rich meals.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water until you are tired of drinking it, then drink more.
- Be able to recognize the symptoms of possible heat-related illnesses. (See above)
- Avoid unneeded or abundant strenuous activities.
- And if you are outside, wear sunscreen.
Cooling Clothing For Extreme Heat
Are there cooler things to wear in hot weather? It all comes down to common sense.
“The biggest factor to cooling off is to evaporate sweat from the surface of the skin,” explains Leann Poston, MD, a pediatrician in Dayton, Ohio. “Any fabrics that you wear that allow sweat to evaporate more easily will feel cooler. Overall, loose clothing that allows for airflow is the best.”
Going for lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting garments would be best. Flowing garments allow air circulation, and light-colored fabrics reflect light and heat. This will keep you cooler.
Use natural fiber fabrics. Not polyester or other man-made materials. They do not ‘breathe’. Natural, light fabrics will dry out faster, a perk when sweating in the extreme heat.
Cotton, linen, bamboo, chambray, and silk absorb sweat and allow the skin to breathe.
Although it ‘feels’ like too hot an idea, long sleeves will protect you from the sun—another thing to consider. Ensure the fabric and color will fit your situation: loose fitting, light, and natural fabric.
It would help if you also considered a well-vented, wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, head, neck, and ears from the sun, such as one of those Panama hats.
A baseball cap doesn’t cut it here. All that protects and cools down is the front of your face. And for the most part, they are not well-vented at all.
Pets In Extreme Heat Waves
Do not forget to keep an eye on your pets, too. Remember that pets also suffer amid high temperatures and humidity during these extreme heat waves. Like us, they can feel the heat too.
The Humane Society of the United States suggests limiting exercise for dogs on hot days, providing ample shade and water for your pet, and keeping an eye out for signs of heatstroke, including heavy panting, glazed eyes, and a rapid heartbeat.
Signs of a heat stroke in a pet can be:
- Rapid panting
- Wide eyes
- Lots of drooling
- Hot skin
- Twitching muscles
Call your vet if you think your pet has a heat stroke.
Cooling your pets with a ‘cool’ bath or shower will help keep their body temperature down. Spraying them down with a hose can be fun. A cool towel on a tile floor, a cool towel, or a washcloth lying over the skin next to a fan will also help cool the animal.
Always ensure they have plenty of cool water available to drink.
Take Those Extreme Heat Waves Seriously
In conclusion, extreme heat wave conditions present a growing challenge that demands our attention and preparedness.
As temperatures worsen, we must take the necessary steps to protect ourselves, our communities, and the environment.
By staying informed about the risks, adopting adaptive measures, and cultivating a culture of preparedness, we can collectively mitigate the adverse impacts of these scorching conditions. While extreme heat may be an unavoidable consequence of our changing world, our ability to adapt and thrive despite it will define our resilience as a society.
So, as we face the heat, let’s stay calm and safe and work together to create a more sustainable and heat-resilient future for all.