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Sizzling summer temperatures continue to rise

High temps of 95, with heat indices in the 100s this weekend

Photo courtesy of US National Weather Service Grand Rapids.

By Judy Reed

Statements from both the Kent County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are warning residents of the need to be aware of the dangers of heatstroke and dehydration as temperatures and humidity continue to rise. 

“We collectively waited much of the year in anticipation of warm weather, but this week may be a little too warm for comfort. On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, daytime temperatures will near and surpass 90 degrees, with predicted highs of 95 degrees on Thursday–Saturday. It will also be very humid, which will increase the discomfort,” said Kent County Emergency Manager Lt. Lou Hunt.

“It’s important Michiganders stay hydrated and out of the sun as much possible to avoid serious health complications during this hot weather,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “Young children, older adults and those who are have medical conditions are at increased risk for heat-related illness, so be sure to check frequently on them and others in your community who may need additional assistance.”

It is important to be aware of the dangers heat can present to residents, and pets, so we can stay safe and remain as comfortable as possible. Residents are encouraged to follow these simple tips:

• Spend as much time as possible in a temperature-controlled cool environment.

• Stay in the shade with a good breeze/air flow to decrease felt temperatures.

• Remain well hydrated by drinking water (more than usual), which can help the body’s natural process for adapting to higher temperatures, as opposed to alcohol drinks that can be counter-productive and dehydrate the body.

• Wear loose-fitting clothing.

• Check on elderly neighbors and relatives to determine if they need assistance.

Knowing the signs of heat exhaustion (which can include weakness, cold and clammy skin, darker than normal urine, significant sweating, cramps, dizziness, headache and nausea, among others) is a strong indicator it is time to get to a cooler environment, drink some cold water, and rest. Heat stroke, on the other hand, is a medical emergency with signs such as confusion, disorientation, the absence of sweating, high body temperature, rapid pulse/heart rate, and others. Heat stroke can be fatal, and must be treated immediately.

Cooling centers will be open throughout this event for residents to go and rest from the heat. Most cooling centers will be open during the day while the temperatures are hottest (nighttime temperatures this week will be much more tolerable, in the mid 70’s). For locations and hours of cooling centers, please call 211 and a United Way representative will assist you in locating the closest cooling center.

Remember, this week is a good time to slow things down a little, stay out of the sun, and make sure the people around you (and yourself) are coping during this heat event. Also, please remember your family pets! Pets that live outside will require shade and lots of cool water, but residents are encouraged to bring their pets inside for cooler temperatures.

In addition to staying hydrated and out of the sun, residents are reminded to never leave children or pets alone in a car even with the windows cracked. Temperatures inside a car can easily be double the temperature outside, and because a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s they are more susceptible to heatstroke.

For more information about how to protect yourself and your loved ones from heat-related illness, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html

During this time, you will also hear more about “Clean air action days.” We had one Monday, and had another one Wednesday (yesterday). So what are they and what are we supposed to do when we have one?

Meteorologist Kevin Craig, of Fox17, explained it this way: “If you’re not familiar with it, clean air action days are similar to the old ozone action day. It simply means that the air quality for certain groups like the elderly, very young, and folks with breathing problems or asthma may find it difficult to be outside.

“While ozone may be of benefit in the upper levels of the atmosphere by protecting us from the harmful UV rays of the sun, it has the opposite effect when it forms here at the surface. It’s basically ground pollution. How does it form? The vapors from topping off the gas tank in your car while fueling can create ground level ozone. Running gas powered equipment like lawn-mowers and weed-wackers can do the same. That said, organizations such as the West Michigan Clean Air Coalition asks that you stop/refrain from these types of activities on clean air action days. Wait for another day to refuel or cut the grass. It really does make a difference. See their website at https://www.wmcac.org/ and learn more.”

That website will show you what types of things you can do at home, in the workplace, and while you are on the road to help mitigate the formation of ozone at ground level and help your neighbors and family members breathe easier. Examples include: 

Use non-gasoline powered yard maintenance equipment; 

Avoid using oil-based paints or solvents;

Reschedule your mowing;

Do all your errands in one trip;

Take public transportation;

Ride your bike;

Conserve energy in the home and at work

And more!

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