Be ready for the heat that's surely coming

Saturday, June 30, 2007

We haven't done the research, but we're sure it's been a long time since we haven't had a 100-degree day by July 1.

Especially the last few years of the drought, dozens of days of temperatures above the century mark has been the rule rather than the exception during the summer months.

Truthfully, we wouldn't be disappointed if it never did clear 100 this year -- we'd be very surprised, for sure, but not disappointed.

But the calendar keeps rolling along, with the Fourth of July arriving next midweek, and torrid temperatures can't be far behind.

Unless we're predisposed and qualified for sunbathing, most of us prefer to be in the shade, especially the "more experienced" among us.

But many of us are forced by occupation or avocation to be outdoors when the heat becomes oppressive.

It's time for some reminders to help keep us safe:

Slow down -- eliminate or reschedule the most strenuous activities to the coolest time of the day. People with medical conditions should stay in the coolest place available.

Dress for summer -- Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight, keeping your body closer to normal temperatures.

Feed your internal fires less -- Foods like proteins increase metabolic heat and increase water loss. Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. Exceptions are people with epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, who are on fluid restrictive diets or who have a problem with fluid retention, and should consult a physician before increasing fluid intake.

Don't take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

Spend more time in air-conditioned places to reduce the danger from heat.

If you're traveling during hot weather, it's important to keep your vehicle functioning well so you and your passengers aren't stranded in the heat.

Before starting out, make sure all the fluids in your engine, such as motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, windshield washer, battery level and cooling system are at the proper level, that your belts and hoses are in good shape, tires are properly inflated and you have a well-equipped emergency kit and tool box.

On the road:

* Keep an eye on the lights and gauges. If the needle starts moving up, turn off your air conditioner and turn on the heater to its highest and hottest setting. It will be uncomfortable, but will help draw some of the heat away from the engine.

* If stopped in traffic, put the car in "park" and lightly step on the gas to help circulate coolant.

* If the temperature light goes on, or if the gauge enters the red zone, immediately pull off the road to a safe spot, well away from traffic. Do not drive any farther, which could ruin your engine.

* Don't attempt to remove the radiator cap itself, or pour water over the engine itself. After the engine cools, add a 50-50 mix of coolant and water to bring the reservoir to the proper level.

* Never leave a child or pet in a parked car. Even an outside temperature in the 80s could be lethal.

* Bring a cell phone for emergencies, but don't use it while driving.

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