This is a repost of I diary I wrote in 2008 during a heat wave. With the summer of 2012 approaching far too quickly, I wanted to repost itAs I drove home from school this afternoon I stopped at Sonic to get a cherry slush. I glanced to the right and noticed a sign in front of the Jiffy Lube flashing the time and temperature. When I pulled into the drive-in the sign said it was 105 degrees F. By the time I pulled out, less than 10 minutes later, it was 108 degrees. With summer heat waves sweeping across the nation several groups are at risk of illness and death from conditions such as heat stroke.
Senior citizens are at the most risk. As people age their bodies are less able to regulate temperature, making them more vulnerable to extreme weather. Many senior citizens are also low income and cannot afford the energy bills associated with heating and cooling.
The homeless are also at a high risk from heat related illnesses. The homeless often find it difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter away from the scorching rays of the sun. This combined with limited access to potable water puts them in great danger.
As temperatures rise, however, there are things we can do to help.
If you know a senior citizen who is at risk for heat related illnesses the California Department of Public Health offers the following advice:
What You Can Do to Help Protect Seniors from Heat IllnessMost communities have senior centers and/or community centers that set up cooling centers during the hot summer months. You can help keep these places going by dropping off a few gallons of fresh, clean water. Just pick up a couple of 5-gallon containers of arrowhead and drop it off. They will be grateful to have it and it won't be that much trouble. You can also drop off any old fans you may have laying around. If there are homeless shelters in your area, they could use some fresh, clean water too.
If you have senior relatives or neighbors (people over 65 years of age), you can help them prevent heat illness during hot weather.
1. Visit them at least twice a day and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
2. Seniors may not feel thirsty even when their bodies are low on fluids. Encourage them to drink plenty of cool water, juice or sports drinks.
3. Take them to air-conditioned places if their residence is hot. They can also shower or bathe in cool water. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness.
If you can't find a cooling center in your area, and you're feeling really motivated, try to make arrangements for one yourself.
If you see a homeless person on the street consider buying him or her a gallon of water. At many supermarkets you can find a gallon of water for less than a dollar. If you are feeling particularly generous, throw in some juicy fruits and berries.
And don't forget to take care of yourself. Even if you are young and healthy you are still at risk for heat related illnesses. Drink a lot of water, eat fresh fruit, and when it is hot avoid alcohol. Often times our bodies get confused when we are dehydrated and tell us to eat instead of drink. When you feel hungry drink a glass of water before you eat and wait a little while. If you are still hungry then eat.
And of course, make sure your children and pets have plenty of fresh water and never leave your child or pet in a hot car even with the windows down.
-- update --
This year I am starting a list of websites that provide locations of cooling centers. I am updating it slowly, but will keep adding locations as I find them. If anyone can add to the list, I would appreciate it. Just leave a comment and I will update.