If it feels like summers are hotter than they were when you were a kid, that’s because they are. A 2012 study by NASA researchers showed that temperatures have shifted and 75 percent of locations worldwide now experience hot to extremely hot summers. That means more and more people are subject to the often deadly effects that heat can have. You may not even think about it, but summer heat waves kill more people in America than all other natural disasters combined. How does this happen? If you’re thinking of ways to combat the heat this summer, you should be looking at both external, and internal factors. Use common sense about your work and recreation habits but also take stock of geographic and economic factors that can put you at risk. The summer sun is not to be taken lightly.
1. Who Dies of Heat Stroke?
Researcher Eric Klinenberg says more than 400 Americans die of heat-related illness every year due to many factors, some of which can be mysterious. You probably think heat stroke mainly affects elderly people and that’s true, mostly because their bodies don’t regulate temperature as well as they used to and they’re more prone to diseases which affect that ability. But the dangers of heat can also depend on the city you live in. In places where heat waves are less common, like Chicago or Philadelphia, people are less likely to possess the natural ability to tell how the sun is affecting them. If you grew up in Texas or Nevada, you’re more likely to be acclimated to extreme heat and your body isn’t shocked by it. And if you live in the South, where temperatures are much more stable year round instead of varying wildly, you’re a lot safer.
2. How Can You Prepare Your Home?
The number one most important way to prepare for a heat wave is to have adequate air conditioning. A study of ten states shows that as the number of homes with air conditioning increased, the number of heat-related deaths was cut by at least half. Air conditioning systems should be replaced every ten to twelve years, and you should start checking on the functionality of your system long before those triple digit temperatures arrive. You can also find ways to shield windows in your home that are most exposed to sunlight and can reduce the air conditioner’s effectiveness by building up heat. It’s also a good idea to check for air leaks, dirty air conditioner filters, and faulty windows. Closing the blinds and making sure the cool air stays inside as much as possible will not only help protect you from the heat, it can also save you money on your energy bills. And during the summer, it’s easy for those to skyrocket.
3. Eating, Drinking, and Monitoring Your Body
Of course, it’s important to drink water or using water treatment when it’s hot outside because your body will become dehydrated much quicker. It’s important to get in the habit of taking a bottle of water with you when you leave the house and drink small amounts throughout the day. But avoiding complicated and heavy meals that will add heat to your house from cooking is a good thing to avoid. You want to eat fruits and vegetables that have a high water content and will help keep you hydrated, as well as choosing lighter meats like chicken and fish over hamburgers whenever possible. But cooking outdoors on a grill is a great way to keep the heat associated with mealtime out of the house, which is part of why backyard barbecues are such a summer tradition.
It’s important to recognize the early signs of heat exhaustion such as cramps, muscle spasms, and increased flow of blood to your skin. Serious heat stroke comes when your body can no longer cool itself because your regulatory system is not working. It’s not difficult to spot the signs of heat stroke before they become severe, and with the right preparation you can avoid being adversely affected by the sun altogether. If you stay in an air-conditioned home or office and drink plenty of water, the summer should be no sweat.