It’s warm, and July is on the doorstep.
It’s also a season in which safety experts advise caution and following a few common-sense rules. As Missouri’s Summer Weather Safety Week draws to a close, here are 13 tips for summer safety.
No. 1: “Any time you’re out doing anything, water is your friend,” advises Larry Jones, director of health for the city of Independence.
Carry water with you, Jones advises. (It’s better than Gatorade, he says.)
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services puts it another way, suggesting what it calls – tip No. 2 – a summer safety kit: loose, light clothing; sunscreen; bottles of water; mini battery-operated fan; a large hat; and sunglasses.
No. 3: Beware the bugs. They spread disease.
“It’s been a good year for ticks. They’re thick,” says Jones.
“Use insect repellents containing DEET when needed to prevent insect-related diseases,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, and mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus and other viruses.” Just this week, health officials confirmed that a Lebanon, Missouri., man died of the West Nile virus earlier this month. Most people don’t develop noticeable symptoms, but some die. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches and a rash.
The key is to take away mosquitoes’ breeding areas – stagnant water. Start with the bird bath.
“You need to use your hose on it so you wash it out,” says Jones.
Also, clogged gutters and the saucers under flower pots can collect stagnant water. “That’s a great breeding ground, so remember to clean those out once a week,” Jones says. When the kiddie pool isn’t in use, turn it over.
And ticks? Remove them immediately, says Jones.
No. 4: Watch what you eat.
“I can’t preach enough about food-borne illness,” says Jones.
People generally associate food-borne illness with eating out, but Jones said you’re more likely to run into a problem at a picnic, where foods can sit in the heat too long. Anything with eggs or mayonnaise “and you’re just playing with fire,” Jones says.
No. 5: Don’t leave children or pets in locked vehicles. Even for a minute. Ever.
No. 6 is huge: Respect the high heat. Do the heaviest work in the coolest part of the day, the National Weather Service suggests. Build up your tolerance to working in the heat; it can take a couple of weeks. Use the buddy system. Wear loose, light-colored, light-fitting clothing. Take breaks in the shade, drink lots of water, and eat light. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Nationwide, more than 200 a year die of heat-related causes. In Missouri alone, 14 suffered heat-related deaths in 2013, along with 52 each in 2011 and 2012.
That leads to No. 7: Know the symptoms. Exposure to heat can cause cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the last of which is considered a medical emergency.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, irritability, confusion, nausea, vomiting, dark-colored urine, pale and clammy skin and fainting. Get the person to a cool, shaded area. Stay with the person. Loosen or remove heavy clothing. Someone who is dizzy or lightheaded should lie on his back and elevate their legs 6 to 8 inches. Give a little water – a small cup every 15 minutes. Cool the person off with a fan, a wet cloth or a cool spray mist. If the person doesn’t get better, seek medical help.
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is more serious. That person may have dry, pale skin; or hot, red skin that looks sunburned; seizures or fits; collapsing and/or passing out; and mood swings such at irritability, confusion or just not making any sense.
Deal with it quickly and decisively: Call 911 first. Most of the treatments, until help arrives, are the same as for heat exhaustion: a cool, dry place; loosen the clothing; give water slowly; fan and use other means of cooling, including ice packs under the arms and in the groin.
Speaking of sun and heat, No. 8: Protect yourself from too much sunshine.
The worry about sunburn is both for today and for what happens – skin cancer – 15 to 20 years down the line, Jones says. So use sunscreen.
“About every 60 to 90 minutes, you need to reapply,” he said.
And, remember, even on overcast days, the sun’s ultraviolet rays get through
No. 9: “Putting a brimmed hat on helps immensely,” Jones says.
No. 10: Take care around the house.
“There’s a lot of folks who don’t have air conditioning because they think they can’t afford it,” Jones says.
Add to that the situations in which people don’t want to leave windows open because of concerns about neighbors, and the problem gets worse. The obvious option is to set up a fan or two – but Jones stresses caution on that idea. It can make things worse.
“... that’s like having an oven with the fan moving the hot air,” he said. It dehydrates the body.
Better alternatives? Jones suggests getting by without the fan or perhaps moving to the second floor and an open window there.
No. 11: Reach out for help. When it gets excessively hot – the Weather Service posts alerts – make sure you spend at least a few hours a day in air-conditioned places. That can be the mall or a library. Cooling centers open when it’s going to be excessively hot for an extended time. Call 211, or check the newspaper.
No. 12: When thunder roars, go indoors.
“You might see that lightning and you think it’s a long way away, but it’s really not,” Jones says.
The Weather Service outlines the risks: Nationwide, more than 100 Americans a year die in tornadoes, about 75 die in flooding – that’s No. 13: “Turn around, don’t drown” – and 33 die from lightning.
“Lightning can strike as much as 10 miles away from the rain area of a thunderstorm; that’s about the distance that you are able to hear the thunder from the storm,” says the Weather Service.
About half of people struck by lightning are in open areas and, sometimes, at high elevations. That includes golf and other sports. About one-fourth are under a tree, and 14 percent are on the water, according to the Weather Service. Seventy-three percent of these incidents occur in June, July and August.
The Weather Service stresses there simply are no safe places outdoors when lightning occurs. Just go inside.