Handling the Summer Heat

It’s impossible to spend a summer in Arkansas without hearing someone say, “It’s not the heat — it’s the humidity.” It becomes a sort of catchphrase that sounds as though it should provide comfort, but really offers none. Whether it’s the heat or the humidity that’s responsible (really it’s both), it can get uncomfortably warm during the summer months.

But summer heat can be more than unpleasant. Things such as heat-related illness are a real concern during the summer. Extreme heat caused 7,415 deaths in the United States over an 11-year period. Heat-related illness and heat-related death can affect anyone. Here are a few things you should know to stay safe and keep cool this summer.

Humidity in the summer

Why does humidity make it feel hotter during the summer? Sweat is our body’s way of cooling off. Unfortunately, sweat evaporates more slowly in high humidity than in low humidity. This is why we feel hotter and appear to sweat more when it’s hot and humid rather than when it’s just hot.

Heat-related illness

Things such as heat, humidity, and physical exertion raise your body temperature. Heat-related illness sets in when your body is unable to keep cool. Things such as weight, age, cardiovascular health, sunburn, dehydration, and drug or alcohol use all affect your body’s ability to cool itself.

Young children and older adults are especially susceptible to the heat. Give extra attention to people older than 65 and younger than 2 to keep them safe from heat-related illness.

Ways to stay safe from heat-related illness this summer

  • According to the CDC, air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness.
  • Avoid intense physical activity during the sun’s peak hours. Plan outdoor activities for the mornings and evenings when it is cooler outside.
  • Getting too hot too quickly is a big cause of heat related illness. If you do move around outside this summer, make sure to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink more water than you normally do.
  • Take cool baths or showers to help keep yourself cool.
  • Always wear sunscreen and sun protective clothing when heading outdoors in the summer.
  • Never leave children, infants, or pets in a hot car.

Heat illness warning signs and more tips