Given the rat-a-tat-tat of outrageous and even depraved behavior that pours forth daily from upper levels of the U.S. federal government, it is hard for other news to break through.
But we need to seek out important information and at this time of year, the weather headlines from around North America are a reminder that we must be careful to take precautions in our over-heated climate. Last week's weather was a killer:
Death Toll in Canada (Quebec) Heat Wave Jumps to 34
Death toll at 3 from Vermont heat wave
Southern California heat wave breaks records
Here are some of the temperatures (Fahrenheit) for the Los Angeles area last Friday:
Hollywood Burbank Airport - 114 degrees
Van Nuys Airport - 117 degrees
Ramona - 117 degrees
Santa Ana - 114 degrees
Riverside - 118 degrees
Once upon a time in my life, numbers like that showed up in the U.S. only in Death Valley.
With temperatures hitting three figures all too often – it's only 9 July and there is a lot more summer to get through – it is time for the annual TGB reminder that although everyone suffers, extreme heat is more often deadly for elders than younger people.
In France in August of 2003, during an extreme heat wave, 14,802 heat-related deaths occurred, most of them elders. In the U.S., it is estimated that about 370 deaths a year are attributable to heat, half of them elders. Do not take extreme heat lightly.
HOW TO STAY COOL AND SAFE IN HOT WEATHER
Here are the best suggestions for staying cool and safe during extreme hot weather. Yes, I've published these before – pretty much every year - but it's good to review them again.
Even if, like me, you dislike air conditioned air, when temperatures hit 80F, it's time to pump up the volume of that appliance. Fans, say experts, don't protect against heat-related illness when temperatures are above 90 degrees; they just push hot air around.
If you don't have an air conditioner, plan for the hottest part of the day by going to a mall or a movie or the library or visit a friend who has air conditioning.
If you have air conditioning and have elder friends or neighbors who don't, invite them for a visit in the afternoon. Some other important hot weather tips:
• Wear light-colored, loose clothing.
• Drink plenty of liquids and make reminders to yourself to do so. Elders sometimes don't feel thirst (another thing that stops working well with age). One way to know if you are drinking enough water is to check the color of your urine. Light-colored is good; dark indicates dehydration.
• Do not drink caffeinated and alcoholic beverages; they are dehydrating.
• Plan trips out of the house and exercise for the early morning hours.
• Eat light meals that don't need to be cooked. High-water-content foods are good: cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, for example.
• Keep a spray bottle of cold water to help you cool down. Or use a damp, cool towel around your neck.
• Close doors to rooms you are not using to keep cool air from dissipating.
• Medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions can inhibit the body's ability to cool itself, so it might be a good idea to ask your physician if you can cut back during hot weather.
• Pull down the shades or close curtains during the hottest times of day.
In that regard, I have been quite successful in keeping my home cool during hot weather without the air conditioner. In the morning, when the temperature here in Portland, Oregon is typically in the mid- or high 50s, I open all the windows.
I keep my eye on thermometer and when the outside temperature reaches 65F or 70F – usually by late morning - I close the windows and the shades. After several years of practice with this method, I only rarely need the air conditioner even on 90-plus degree days. It saves a lot of money, too, not using the air conditioner. But to repeat: turn it on when it is necessary.
SERIOUS HEAT-RELATED CONDITIONS
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body gets too hot. Symptoms are thirst, weakness, dizziness, profuse sweating, cold and clammy skin, normal or slightly elevated body temperature.
Move yourself or someone experiencing this to a cool place, drink cool liquids, take a cool bath or shower and rest.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It can cause brain damage so get thee or the affected person to a hospital. It occurs when body temperature reaches 104 or 105 in a matter of minutes. Other symptoms include confusion; faintness; strong, rapid pulse; lack of sweating and bizarre behavior.
Don't fool around with heat stroke.
There now. That's pretty much the best of health experts' recommendations about protecting ourselves and others during extreme hot weather. If you have additional suggestions, please add them in the comments.