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 in the morning! What the? An Extreme Heat Wave is currently engulfing the country and I’m in it. At least 10 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 just as deadly as a sub-zero cold front? We have to be aware of:
- 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? Well, 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 combined with high levels of humidity can create a heat bubble right over our heads for an extended period of time.
A heat wave is caused by a strong high pressure of air settling in at 10,000-25,000 ft. and deciding to hang around for a while. This will cause warm air to sink. The result is a dome of hot air that will trap the heat near the ground and prevents 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 a great deal more uncomfortable.
What To Do In An Excessive Heat Warning
An excessive heat warning is a heat index of 105 °F or greater that will last for at least 2 hours or more. It’s important to understand what you should be doing or not be doing in these times of extreme heat waves.
Extreme heat and humidity will challenge your body’s ability to cool itself. It will be valuable for you to know the signs of excessive heat exposure and how to treat heat-related illnesses. Knowing the warning signs for heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and the differences between the two can help you to protect yourself and those around you.
It’s important to understand that those at greatest risk of heat illness will be people 65 or older, under the age of 5, and those living with chronic diseases or mental illness.
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 serious heat-related 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 illness, 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 House Cool In Extreme Heat
The cost of living is not bad enough and now we have to 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 are going in and out to unload your car.
- Use fans
- Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise 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 just 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 before closing your blinds and curtains during the day will help a lot. Along with door discipline and fans. But, and here is a very big but: when temperatures get above 90° your fans will be not 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, downwind situation, open them up. A breeze coming in 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 a ‘whole house fan’ they will create a rapid air exchange which could create a beneficial breeze. They also use a fraction of electricity as that of an air conditioner. And when that air conditioner is working, 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 LED’s can cool your home while also lowering your energy bill.
- During the coolness of the evening is 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 even nighttime heat.
Keeping Myself Cool In Extreme Heat
We talked about your house cooling during these extreme heat waves, but how about yourself? Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to your personal health and well-being during any type of heat wave:
- Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine.
- Don’t eat large, especially protein-rich meals.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water till you are tired of drinking it and 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.”
You should go for lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting garments. Flowing garments will allow air circulation and light-colored fabrics will reflect light and heat. This will keep you cooler. Use natural fiber fabrics. Not polyester or other man-made materials. They just do not ‘breathe’. Natural, light fabrics will dry out faster, a perk when you are sweating in the extreme heat.
Cotton, linen, bamboo, chambray, and silk work best in absorbing sweat and allowing the skin to breathe itself.
Although it ‘feels’ like too hot an idea, long will sleeves will protect you from the sun. Another thing to consider. Just make sure the fabric and color will fit the situation you are in. Loose fitting, light, and natural fabric.
You should also consider 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 by giving them 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 to lay on, a cool towel or washcloth laying over the skin next to a fan will also help cool the animal. Always make sure they have plenty of cool water available to drink as well.