Heat preparation for people and pets

And so it begins, even before the season officially turns to summer. The temperature will rise to the 90s this week and possibly even past 100, the Journal’s John Deem reported Monday. For many of us, this will be beyond uncomfortable. It could feel like being trapped in a furnace. Gold Texas.

Most of us will spend the bulk of our time in air-conditioned comfort, often provided by employers, with access to iced beverages.

But many of us will have to venture outside from time to time over the next 12 weeks, for business and pleasure. We’ll wear sun-blocking hats and perhaps carry umbrellas or fans. Ice cream can be an effective cooling agent.

Despite those precautions, prolonged exposure to intense summer heat can drain energy and lead to dehydration — and serious conditions like heat exhaustion or heat stroke — before we’re aware that we’re in trouble. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention generally records more than 600 deaths in the United States each year because of extreme heat. It can exacerbate other medical issues like kidney problems.

It’s best to stay aware and wary, limiting our heat exposure and remaining hydrated.

Any of us can experience problems from the extreme heat, but children and the elderly are especially susceptible. They should be checked on regularly.

Heat stroke is characterized by a high body temperature (103 or higher), hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness, nausea and confusion; and passing out or losing consciousness.

Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy sweating; cold, pale, clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; headache; passing out or fainting.

Both conditions call for an immediate response: helping the victim cool off in shade and calling 911 for medical attention.

But it’s best to avoid such extremes by staying indoors during the hottest part of the day and drinking plenty of fluids — avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which increase dehydration — throughout the day.

Our pets are also susceptible to these dangers, and they can’t always get the message to us that they’re in distress. So we have to watch for the symptoms, which include excessive panting, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, vomiting and collapse. In such situations, they should be given small amounts of water or ice cubes while being immediately taken to the vet.

And the same precautions can keep them safe: Keeping them in air conditioning during the hottest part of the day and making sure they have access to plenty of cool water — and, while outside, copious shade.

Owners also should remember that their pets’ paws can be very sensitive to heat. Asphalt can get as high as 20 degrees hotter than ambient temperatures during a heat wave and hot enough to burn if touched. If it’s too hot for a human to walk barefoot on a concrete sidewalk, it’s too hot for a dog, too. Best to do walkies in the morning or evening rather than at noontime. And a grassy patch or dog park is more suitable any time of day.

As tempting as it is to take pets along on trips, leaving a pet in a parked vehicle for even a short time can be deadly, according to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. The temperature in a vehicle can rise almost 20 degrees in 10 minutes when the sun is hot, and leaving the window cracked or parking in a shady spot makes little to no difference.

When seeing an animal trapped in a hot car—and they can heat up like an oven—it may be tempting to take immediate action by breaking a window. A better course of action is to call local law enforcement agencies. Police officers, firefighters and rescue workers are authorized to break into cars if it’s deemed necessary.

This, too, shall pass and with luck, leave memories of summer pleasures: beach and mountain vacations, trashy fiction, outdoor concerts, baseball games and fireworks. Make the best of it by staying cool.

—Winston-Salem Journal

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