A heat wave occurs when the temperatures soar to unusually high levels. Although heat waves can occur at various times of the year, most often a heat wave will occur during the summer months when its seasonably higher and there is the occasional spike in temperature and heat index.
There are many health dangers and risks associated with heat waves which include dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Any of these illnesses can be severe if not treated immediately and with care. In addition, during a heat wave extra strains are put on power supplies which sometimes result in blackouts or power outages. It is important to plan for potential outages where air conditioning, water wells or other needs for electricity are needed to help cope during a heat wave.
Getting too darn hot? How to cope during a heat wave:
1. Stay Hydrated
Avoiding dehydration is very important during a heat wave. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. It is also a good idea to avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as these are counterproductive to staying hydrated. Make sure the kids stay hydrated too.
Clothing is another important consideration during heat waves. It is best to wear light, loose fitting clothing. Choose materials that allow your skin to breathe. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are good options, the idea is the less clothing, the better. Always try to avoid dark or restrictive clothing during excessive temperatures.
3. Avoid Exposure to the Sun
Prolonged exposure to the sun will heat your body’s temperature and you want to avoid getting burned. This not only makes you feel uncomfortable, but also can increase body temperature. If you must go outside do it in the early morning or later evening hours when the sun isn’t beating down full force (see #5).
Photo by author
4. Stay Indoors with Air Conditioning
If you have air conditioning in your home, this is ideal, however, if you do not have it, try to get out of the house for a few hours during the heat wave, particularly during the daytime when the temperatures tend to climb to scorching levels and the heat index tends to be highest. Ideas of places to go are restaurants, coffee shops, movie theatres, malls or even grocery stores. Any place where you can duck out of the sun and escape the hot temperatures is a good idea and provides much needed relief from the heat, even if it is temporary. Several years ago when I lived in a city area, we did not have air conditioning and I used to schedule my errands for the hottest times of the day food shopping or just wandering around stores (keep in mind, you don’t want too much to carry when you get home either when it’s that hot.)
5. Work Outside During Cooler Times of Day
For some, it is not always possible to stay indoors indefinitely, especially those who have outdoor jobs or have to get their exercise in. Working outdoors in the summer can be brutal. If the heat cannot be avoided, it is best to try and schedule these activities for cooler times of the day such as earlier morning or later in the evening when the sun’s rays are not so strong. Take a cue from the birds. Schedule your walks or jogs when they are just waking up or when they are settling in for the night.
6. Soak Extremities
Feet are one of a body’s extremities and if you aren’t able to remain in or have access to air condition, wherever feasible consider soaking feet in cold water, ice cubes can help. Small coolers are ideal for this, but if you don’t have a portable cooler, even a pot or bucket can do the trick. Other ways to cool down extremities is placing ice packs on the neck, wrists and forehead can also cool body temperatures quickly.
Cool showers are a great way to cool body temperatures and are often a welcome activity during a heat wave. Showers do not have to be long, even a few minutes can bring a significantly refreshed feeling.
Being exposed to prolonged heat can be dangerous. Individuals, especially those more susceptible such as infants, young children and older persons, can be particularly sensitive and prone to heat related illnesses. Maintaining a good regimen and paying close attention to body temperature and hydration are essential practices during a heat wave.
Finding ways to cope during a heat wave is not always easy, nor is it enjoyable. However being vigilant and maintaining the above general practices are preventative measures to aid in beating the heat and staying well until the heat wave has passed.
Leigh has been writing on the web since 2007. She has a high interest in business, tech, higher education, and Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia travel, but loves to write about a variety of topics. In addition to writing on Writedge, she also runs a blog about the Washington DC Metro Area and a photography blog Photos by Leigh Goessl.