EDITORIAL: Heat preparation for people and pets

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And so it begins, even before the season officially turns to summer. The temperature will rise to the 80s today, and though we may have some cool spells, we can always count on hot summer weather in Central New York.

For many of us, this will be beyond uncomfortable. It could feel like being trapped in a furnace. Or Texas.

Most of us will spend the bulk of our time in air-conditioned comfort, often provided by employers, with access to iced beverages.

But many of us will have to venture outside from time to time over the next 12 weeks, for business and pleasure. We’ll wear sun-blocking hats and perhaps carry umbrellas or fans. Ice cream can be an effective cooling agent.

Despite those precautions, prolonged exposure to intense summer heat can drain energy and lead to dehydration — and serious conditions like heat exhaustion or heat stroke — before we’re aware that we’re in trouble. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention generally records more than 600 deaths in the United States each year because of extreme heat. It can exacerbate other medical issues like kidney problems.

It’s best to stay aware and wary, limiting our heat exposure and remaining hydrated.

Any of us can experience problems from the extreme heat, but children and the elderly are especially susceptible. They should be checked on regularly.

Heat stroke is characterized by a high body temperature (103 or higher), hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness, nausea and confusion; and passing out or losing consciousness.

Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy sweating; cold, pale, clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; headache; passing out or fainting.

Both conditions call for an immediate response: helping the victim cool off in shade and calling 911 for medical attention.

But it’s best to avoid such extremes by staying indoors during the hottest part of the day and drinking plenty of fluids — avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which increase dehydration — throughout the day.

Our pets are also susceptible to these dangers, and they can’t always get the message to us that they’re in distress. Owners also should remember that their pets’ paws can be very sensitive to heat. Asphalt can get as high as 20 degrees hotter than ambient temperatures during a heat wave and hot enough to burn if touched. If it’s too hot for a human to walk barefoot on a concrete sidewalk, it’s too hot for a dog, too.

This, too, shall pass and with luck, leave memories of summer pleasures: beach and mountain vacations, trashy fiction, outdoor concerts, baseball games and fireworks. Make the best of it by staying cool.

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