Here we are in the middle of another heatwave along the Grand Strand, and this one isn’t much different from previous ones. It’s hot. It’s humid, and the combination of the two can create killer conditions. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 600 people die each year in the U.S. from extreme heat, often from heatstroke, which occurs when the body’s temperature reaches 104° F or higher.
People often don’t realize how dangerous extreme heat really can be.
Average temperatures have been rising in recent years—June 2019 was the hottest June ever recorded worldwide—and stretches of abnormal heat seem to be more common these days.
A major report from the federal government’s U.S. Global Change Research Program found that heatwaves, or six consecutive days of extremely high temperatures, have been increasing in frequency since the 1960s. And they’re expected to continue being more frequent and more intense.
The heat can affect anyone, but older adults, young children, and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk for serious problems. Simple precautions can help keep you safe. Here’s what experts say are the most important safety steps to take during extreme heat like we’ve been having along the Grand Strand of South Carolina.
Keep Tabs on the Heat Index
The heat index is a term you probably already know. It’s a measure of how hot it feels outside when factoring in humidity and dew points with the temperature. When the weather forecast predicts dangerous heat indexes, you should heed those warnings and try to take extra steps to stay cool.
Try to stay in air-conditioned spaces as much as possible, especially during the hottest part of the day, typically between 10 or 11 am and 6 or 7 pm.
Also, don’t underestimate how hot it can get indoors without air conditioning. Heat conditions indoors without AC have the potential to reach hazardous levels, sometimes reaching temperatures as high as 93 to 95 degrees during extreme heatwaves. With temperatures this high, electric fans will do very little to help cool you down. So, if AC for your home isn’t an option for you, plan to try and find air-conditioned public spaces, like a public library, mall, or movie theater. If you think it might be time to step up to air conditioning for your home.
During extreme heat, you should up your water intake. There’s no recommended amount, but just continue sipping cool water regularly, even if you don’t think you’re thirsty. When you feel like you’re thirsty is when you are already dehydrated.
Water, not sports drinks, is your best bet for staying well-hydrated in the heat. Carry water with you where ever you go during a heatwave. Sports drinks just add a lot of sugar intake and are not advisable. Fruits and vegetables are other good sources of water.
If you notice signs of dehydration, including increased thirst, dry mouth, and tongue, restlessness or irritability, decreased urine, or skin slow to move back into place when pinched, drink more fluids right away. If you haven’t urinated in several hours or you’re producing very dark urine, contact your doctor.
Keep an Eye Out for High-Risk People
Certain groups of people are more prone to heat-related problems, especially during heatwaves. They include older adults and younger children whose bodies aren’t as adept at regulating their temperature, and people with certain chronic medical conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Those who have asthma or COPD might experience more breathing problems in the extreme heat and should watch the forecast for air-quality advisories along with extreme heat events.
Certain medications, including diuretics, can also hike the risk of heat-related illnesses.
If you have older relatives or neighbors, check in on them frequently during a heatwave. And never leave an infant or child alone in a hot car, even for a few minutes. (The same goes for pets.) If you have a child in the backseat, keep a visual reminder of his or her presence in the front seat, such as a diaper bag or jacket.
Signs of Heat Wave Related Illness
If you’re experiencing a heat-related illness during a heatwave, it’s important to know the signs and what to do.
Heat cramps. These painful muscle cramps are often a result of a lot of strenuous activity in the heat. Continuously drinking water, or in an emergency, drinking juice or a sports drink to replenish lost fluid and salt, and resting for a few hours, can sometimes help.
Heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion can include feeling tired, weak, or dizzy; sweating heavily; nausea and vomiting; and pale skin. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop what you’re doing, rest, hydrate, and try to cool your body down by getting into air conditioning if possible, or taking a cool bath or shower. According to the CDC, if left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke.
Heatstroke. This condition, which can sometimes be fatal, occurs when your body’s mechanism for cooling itself becomes overwhelmed and your temperature rises to 104° F or higher. Signs include confusion or an altered mental state, nausea, red and hot skin, being unable to sweat, a throbbing headache, and/or fainting.
If you suspect that you (or someone else) are suffering from heatstroke, call 911 immediately and begin to try and cool down. Other options include spraying yourself (or someone else) with a garden hose, getting into a cool shower or swimming pool, or sponging down with cool water. Be sure not to jump into a pool by yourself if you suspect you may be experiencing heatstroke, as an even more severe consequence could occur if you lose consciousness in the pool.
Summertime can be a time for fun and relaxation, but when a heatwave strikes, it is time to take measures to stay healthy. One of those measures could be to install AC in your home (if you don’t already have it) or make sure your AC is working properly and cooling your home in the most efficient manner possible. Either of these tasks can be accomplished by calling the area’s leading air conditioning professionals at Swift Services Heating, Cooling & Electrical at (843) 352-6427 and someone will contact you as quickly as possible to answer any questions you may have about your home air conditioning system and whether it’s time for that check-up. You can save time, money, and further breakdowns in the long term, as well as make sure you’re prepared to face whatever heat waves we may still be in store for this summer. We’ll help you determine whether it’s better to repair your unit or replace it with a new, more energy-efficient system for your Myrtle Beach area home before the sweltering heat of summer takes its toll on you or your family.