By Sherry Steinman
Break out the blender and clean out the cooler! It’s summertime. There are many things we can do to keep cool and avoid heat-related stress when temperatures and humidity are high. We’ve probably all known people who have overdone the yard work, or overextended their walk on a hot day, and passed out or gotten sick. People experience heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. As library employees, it’s a good idea to watch for certain signs that patrons may be exhibiting upon entering the library. Here are some ideas to keep one’s personal thermostat adjusted.
Cool and Cooler
Get in the habit of keeping a small cooler handy in the car, filled with ice and bottled water or packages of real fruit juice — water is best. Have it in the car with you when you head out to run errands, or spend any time at all on the road. It’s a fact that we (especially women) usually do a lot more running around than we originally planned once we get out and about to do errands! Grocery shopping, a trip to the mall, dropping off books at the Library — and pretty soon you’ve gotten out of the car and into the heat six times in an hour! How’s your body thermostat supposed to keep you comfortable with all that going on? Plan your trips and pace yourself.
Bonus: By keeping the small cooler in the car you’ll save yourself money by not having to pull into a drive-thru for a cold drink.
If you get in the habit of keeping that little cooler handy, refill it with some fresh ice or an ice pack each day. Again, try to stay with the water and maybe some juice, not pop. The carbonation, sugars, and chemicals in soda pop don’t do your body any good in the heat. And, golfers beware! That golf cart cooler should hold something other than beer. Regardless of the activity level, hot weather calls for increased water intake.
Young and Older
Both young children and older adults are more likely to suffer heat exhaustion, so if you’re a grandparent in charge of young children on a hot day, remember to pace yourself while you keep an eye on them. Offer frequent breaks if they’re playing outside. Break out that handy cooler, and offer fruit or a light snack along with the drinks. Bringing the kids inside for break-time is a good idea, too. Kids love to press blender buttons, so supervise them as they spin chipped ice and fruit into a smoothie. They’ll love it!
More ideas for keeping cool, regardless of age, include wearing layers of light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a brimmed hat or sun visor. Again, keep this stuff in the car so you have it when you’re on the run.
Safe and Safer
So you can be of help to someone who may be experiencing heat exhaustion, here are several symptoms to watch for. This includes library patrons who may come in the door on a hot day and not realize they are at risk:
- Very pale or grayish skin color
- Heavy sweating
- General weakness
Move the person to a cool or shaded area, and provide cool water. Remove a layer of clothing if possible and — very important — loosen any constricting clothing like a tight elastic waistband or belt. Heat stroke is potentially life-threatening, and is characterized by a body temperature of 103 or above. Symptoms include red, hot, dry skin, no sweating, rapid pulse, headache, dizziness, general confusion, and nausea or unconsciousness. People experiencing heat stroke need immediate medical attention including cooling them off by any means possible. Getting back to those foolhardy golfers you know, start packing that cooler for them! Take out the beer and put in the water and juice.
Perhaps their body temperatures will be lower than their golf scores next time around!