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Editorial: Take summer heat seriously, avoid heat-related illnesses

Ready for another scorcher?

The dog days of summer are here in Central Maryland. On Tuesday, temperatures reached 93 degrees by 1 p.m. at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshal Airport and the humidity made it feel like it was 98 outside.

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It’s about to get even hotter. High temperatures are forecast in the lower to mid-90s through Thursday, then approaching 100 degrees Friday and Saturday. It’s expected to feel like about 100 degrees today and closer to 110 as the weekend approaches once the humidity is factored in.

These are dangerous levels of heat for anyone, but particularly for children, the elderly and pets. Don’t underestimate the adverse health effects of extreme heat.

Excessive heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more cases of heat-related illnesses.

Already in Maryland this summer, two people have died of heat-related illnesses — a woman 65 or older in Anne Arundel County and a man 45-64 in Baltimore.

State health officials do not provide further details on heat deaths, citing privacy concerns, but say victims are often older or suffering from chronic health conditions that make it harder for them to tolerate extreme weather.

Remember to check-in on elderly family members or neighbors who are most susceptible to heat-related illnesses, especially if they live alone.

Also consider this a friendly reminder about not leaving children or pets inside cars unattended.

The inside of a car can heat up incredibly quickly, even on a nice spring day, let alone a summertime scorcher. On a 90 degree day, a vehicle’s interior temperature can reach more than 125 degrees in about a half-hour.

While most of us wouldn’t think of leaving our kids or pets in a hot vehicle, it still happens somewhat regularly.

Nationwide, about 38 children die from heatstroke each year. Already, there have been 20 pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths in the United States in 2019 after 52 such deaths a year ago. That was a 20-year high, according to noheatstroke.org.

Earlier this year, Harford County government passed a law lowering the temperature threshold that a domestic pet can be left in a vehicle from under 80 degrees to under 70 degrees. Animal control, which falls under the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, responded to 23 calls for dogs in vehicles in 2018.

If you see a child or a pet in an unattended vehicle on a hot day, or even a mild day, call 911 immediately.

It’s not just children, the elderly and pets that should be considered about the heat. It can be dangerous even for perfectly healthy adults too.

When spending time outdoors in severe heat, whether doing chores like mowing the grass or just relaxing by the pool, but sure to take a few breaks in the shade and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

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Stay away from alcohol, as well as sugary and caffeinated beverages like soda or coffee, which can cause dehydration and lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

If you do begin to suffer from heat exhaustion — symptoms include weakness or confusion, heavy swearing, nausea, muscle cramps and pale or cold skin — get out of the heat and into a cool place, lie down and elevate your legs to get blood flowing to your heart and remove any tight or extra clothing. Take a cool bath or apply cool towels to your skin and sip water or a sports drink. Call 911 if symptoms don’t improve or if the person has a fever of 102 after 30 minutes.

For more serious symptoms such as trouble breathing, fainting or seizures, which may be a sign of heat stroke, call 911 immediately.

Take the extreme heat seriously and stay safe.

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