Keep cool in the summer heat
By Robin Scott
The summer months in the Dalhart area bring thunderstorms and tornado warnings, and they also bring heat. Staying cool is important to avoid heat related illnesses, and prevention goes a long way to ensure a safe summer.
According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people suffer heat-related illness when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. Sweating is important because it is the mechanism for cooling the body, but in some instances, sweating isn’t enough. When sweating isn’t enough, body temperature rises rapidly and a too high body temperature may lead to brain damage or damage to the body’s vital organs.
The elderly and the very young are prone to heat illnesses. Other factors include obesity, dehydration, heart disease, poor circulation, suburn, fever and the use of prescription drugs and alcohol use. Other conditions include humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat does not evaborate quickly and the body is unable to release heat. Staying cool and keeping an eye on symptoms of heat-related illnesses is extremely important during the hot summer months.
Two common heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Warnings signs of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramping, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting. Untreated heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke is characterized by high body temperature (above 103°F), red, hot, and dry skin with no sweating, rapid, strong pulse, a throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness.
Treatment of heat exhaustion includes sipping a cool non-alcoholic beverage or water, taking a cool shower or bath, resting, getting into an air conditioned room and wearing light-weight clothing. Treatment for heat stroke requires immediate cooling of the body with cool water, shower, bath, sponge bath or any available source, staying in the shade or air conditioned environment and continuing to cool the body until the body temperature drops below 102°F. A person suffering from heat stroke must also seek emergency medical treatment.
Heat-related illnesses have a way of sneaking up on a person. Even a person that is not involved in an outdoor activity may become a victim. Other ways to guard against heat-related illnesses are to stay indoors, or in the shade during the heat of the day. Air conditioned environments insure that the body’s sweat will evaporate, allowing the body to release heat.
Air conditioners should be maintained so that they do not malfunction during the hottest months. According to Doug Claborn of Claborn Heating and Air, “An air conditioning check up is basically preventative maintenance and is done to prevent a major breakdown in the future. It usually consists of cleaning the outdoor coil, checking the indoor coil for possible necessary cleaning, changing the filter, checking the system charge (freon), checking oil motors and anything else that needs cleaning or adjusting.” A check up will also determine if there is a leak in the freon (refrigerant), which only needs to be added to the system if there is a leak. Claborn stated, “It does not have to be recharged or replaced otherwise.”
If the air conditioning system’s charge is low, the system will not cool effectively and can cause damage to the compressor. Claborn noted, “Some system leaks can be fixed, if they can be found. With other leaks, a part of the system may have to be replaced, such as the outdoor unit or the indoor coil.”
Air conditioners are pieces of equipment just as a motor vehicle or lawn mower, and regular maintenance prolongs their longevity. Claborn noted, “The first part of spring is the best time to have an air conditioner checked before things get really busy for the air conditioner repairman. But, even if summer has already begun it’s not too late. The most important things the home owner can do to prolong the life of the home air conditioning system and save on their utility bill is to change the air filters once a month.”
Air conditioners should provide about 20 years of service. A unit that is 20 years or older could be replaced for a more efficient, quieter, safer unit. According to Claborn, “Newer units also have great warranties.”
Summer is a time when everyone enjoys outdoor activities. Being wary of the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke will keep everyone in the family safe. When the heat gets to be too great, staying indoors during the hottest part of the day with an air conditioning system is advisable.
For more information about heat stroke and heat exhaustion, visit www.cdc.org.