Sunday, June 06, 2010

Dudes. It is so freaking hot.

I mean, like really really really freaking hot.

Like, dude, the low tonight is going to be in the mid-eighties. It's so hot that I put shadecloth up over my tomato plants and they're still losing leaves, even with daily watering.

And this gets me thinking about some of the things that people end up in the ER for this time of year. Like dehydration. And heat exhaustion. And various electrolyte imbalances.

So, a public service announcement: If you, like me, are unfortunate enough to live in a place where we treat summer like people in civilized places treat winter (never go out, huddle at home, get cabin fever), you need to be aware of the following things. Even if you're just visiting. Or maybe especially if you're just visiting.

1. Water is great, but it ain't *all* that.

Years ago I drove from Missouri to Texas in a car with no air-conditioning in June. Not only did I get badly sunburned, but I over-replaced fluids with plain water and ended up hypotonic as a result. I'd sweated out all my salts, and spent the next two days vomiting and craving potato chips and Gatorade in between.

If you're going to be outside, even for a little while, take care that you're not guzzling nothing but water. Consume some potassium and some salt as well. Coconut water, which contains all five of the important electrolytes in the human body, is great for rehydration. Gatorade is a distant second, but works if it's paired with a banana or an avocado.

2. Be aware of how sunny it is, not just how hot.

Even dark-haired, dark-skinned people can burn in a matter of minutes. Do yourself a favor and get some sweatproof, waterproof sunscreen and use it liberally before you go out. I've had many conversations about this with my African-American colleagues, and the general consensus is that even if you're blue-black, you should wear sunscreen.

3. Watch out for pets, vinyl car seats, and pavement.

NEVER EVER EVER EVER LEAVE A DOG IN A CAR, EVEN FOR A SECOND, ANYWHERE THAT IT'S WARM IN THE SUMMERTIME. I don't care if you leave all the windows wide open; the lack of shade and restricted air movement means your furry pal will get overheated in as little as five--yes, five--minutes. An overheated, dehydrated pooch is no fun to deal with.

(Max seconds this from his spot on the floor under the A/C vent. Although he's better equipped to deal with heat than short-coated dogs, he still gets to come in for several hours during the heat of the day.)

Vinyl car seats will get hot enough to blister the backs of your legs. I have scars on my thighs from forgetting this in the days when I drove a VW Beetle, circa CE1970.

Pavement will likewise get hot enough to blister the bottoms of your feet. (See "scars obtained through blatant stupidity during my teenage years", above.) Even if you're just stepping out onto your concrete porch for the mail, get some shoes.

4. Take care with that glass of gorgeous, crisp Prosecco, willya?

Alcohol, while marvelous when you're sitting outside a little cafe in Montreal's Little Italy, watching the people as the sun goes down, eating a salad composed of equal parts squidlets, raddichio, and genius, is dangerous in the South in the summer. You will get so blasted in such a short time in the heat that I can't even describe it. Check yourself before you literally wreck yourself: plenty of water, plenty of cool, refreshing food, and stop after two glasses.

5. Never underestimate the power of shade.

I have a work buddy who grew up in Alaska and moved here in his twenties. He's a great guy--the go-to man when you get your car stuck in slush or need help with rebuilding a cabinet--but he hasn't yet learned how to deal with heat. We were waiting for the med center bus the other day, and I noticed he was standing in full sunlight, while I had wriggled into the small patch of shade thrown by a wilting cypress. He doesn't think about the heat. You have to remind him that yes, shade is a good thing. The temperature under dense leaf cover can be as much as fifteen degrees Fahrenheit lower than the temperature out in the sun, and that can mean the difference between Uncomfortably Sweaty and Dead.

Likewise, you will not see me out in tank tops in the summertime. Long sleeves in light colors provide protection from sunburn, West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes, and their own shade. A neighbor of mine wrapped me in one of her chadors last summer to demonstrate conclusively that when it's 110* out, 98* or thereabouts under your clothes is positively chilly. Clothing provides shade. Wear more of it.

I am going to go off now and eat a couple of tortillas made fresh this morning, some black beans, guacamole, and two yellow pear tomatoes snagged from the garden before the woodpeckers got 'em.

Be careful out there. It's going to be like this through mid-September.


Jenn said...

Great advice, and thanks for posting! I think we're on the other side of the state from you (East Texas, between Dallas and Shreveport), but it's seriously HOT here too. It's our first summer here, but even during Kentucky summers, where we're from, we use most of these same tips.

Alpine, R.N. said...

Jo, I don't know how you guys SURVIVE it down there!!! It's been above 70 at night for the better part of a week here, and I'm MELTING...but then, I'm from the Frozen Northlands, and sleep with the windows open even in winter. Did NOT know that about coconut water...thanks for the tip! (I have a nasty habit of under-hydrating...)

Dr Dean said...

Great reminders-we will be in those triple digits soon. Hate to see it coming-but know it will!

Lisa G said...

Great post. Could have wrote it myself. We're pushing 100 here daily, with 99% humidity. It feels like you're breathing through a wet sponge. I'm looking forward to November--that's when things finally cool down here in NE Florida.

messymimi said...

Thanks for the reminders. We've lived through a couple of Louisiana summers with limited or no a/c and you are spot on.

Anonymous said...

"5. Never underestimate the power of shade."

Yup, I'm the guy circling the lot, not to find the closest spot, but the one with the most shade.

And second to the one about need salt. Working at the closet hospital to the Grand Canyon taught me so much about that. Central Pontine Demylenation. Not. A. Good. Thing.

Rachael said...

smart water is great is you want to guzzle water outside because it has electrolytes.

Mike M. said...

Good advise! I experience all those 365 days a year in Hawaii!