Our central air conditioning unit was replaced in the summer of 2009, and it was nice to have air conditioning after several days without it. We were without central air for about 12 days, and a room air conditioner wasn’t enough. My wife’s health problems forced her to spend several nights with friends, but I stuck it out here.
One of our friends thought I did so in order to write about it here in my blog. Well, no; but it did give me fodder for a couple of posts. I simply didn’t think the situation was unlivable.
Air conditioning, like other advancements in the past century or two, has changed our lifestyles drastically. To me, there’s something unnatural about being in a building cool enough for a man to comfortably wear a three piece suit when it’s in the 90’s outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful for modern amenities, but one day they might not be there for any number of reasons, and we need to be prepared for that.
This may sound silly at first, but an important factor in coping with summer’s heat is to acknowledge it and adapt to it. I grew up without air conditioning, and we got along fine with a few strategically placed box fans in the house. In church we made due with handheld paper fans provided by the local funeral home.
Sweat was a natural part of things. Kitchen duties and gardening were done in the morning while it was still fairly cool. Farmers took water jugs along while out in the fields during the day. Many evenings were spent outdoors when it was cooler as well. Of course, evening was also prime time for mosquitoes.
When I hear admonitions about coping with heat from weather and newscasters, it seems patronizing to me. However, our modern conveniences and lifestyles have made us soft and separated us from the reality around us. Apparently most of us need those trite admonitions. What we need is to make do according to the circumstances. When you think about it, there are good reasons many places in tropical or subtropical climates take siestas in the afternoons and live it up at night.
Most of us don’t like to sweat, but in the heat it is your friend. It helps cool your body down. It’s when you don’t sweat that you’re in big trouble. If your body can’t cool itself, heat stress or heat exhaustion can occur, as well as heat stroke, which can kill you. Sometimes sweating isn’t enough, such as in high humidity. The body’s temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.
Don’t overlook high temperatures and humidity and direct sun or heat. Limited air movement, physical exertion, and poor physical condition can put a lot of stress on our bodies. Also, don’t forget that some medications can affect how your body responds to heat.
Extreme heat should be taken as seriously as extreme cold in winter months. Allow yourself time—maybe a day or two–to get accustomed to the heat. We’ve all heard stories of someone dying from a heart attack while shoveling winter snow. However, in the heat, if exertion makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop all activity and get cooled down as much as possible.
Be on the lookout for these signs of heat stress.
- Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting.
- Weakness and moist skin.
- Mood changes such as irritability or confusion.
- Upset stomach or vomiting.
Hear are heat stroke symptoms.
- Dry, hot skin with no sweating.
- Mental confusion or losing consciousness.
- Seizures or convulsions.
You can prevent heat stress by following a few simple rules.
- Know the signs/symptoms of heat-related illnesses; monitor yourself and coworkers.
- Block out direct sun or other heat sources.
- Use cooling fans/air-conditioning; rest regularly.
- Drink lots of water; about 1 cup every 15 minutes. (Don’t wait until you’re thirsty.)
- Wear lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothes.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks, or heavy meals.
If you or someone you know becomes ill from the heat, call 911 (or the local emergency number) at once. While waiting for help to arrive:
- Move the person to a cool, shaded area.
- Loosen or remove heavy clothing.
- Provide cool drinking water.
- Fan and mist the person with water.
The next time you hear the suggestion to check on elderly neighbors, take it seriously. People over 65 can have more difficulty withstanding heat than younger people. Babies, young children, and the chronically ill struggle in the heat, too. Other conditions that put people at risk are age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use. Also remember not to leave pets or children unattended in the car even for a few minutes.
Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable. Nonetheless, every year many people succumb to extreme heat. Adjust your activities in accordance with hot weather. Rethink and adapt. Practice common sense for survival.
Thankfully, we’ve got a few things the old timers didn’t have. For example, if there’s no electricity when it’s hot, you don’t have to go without a fan to help circulate the air. Battery powered fans can help. Keep solar battery chargers and rechargeable batteries on hand to keep such a fan going.
Keep cool, and stay safe to survive.