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Staying Healthy During a Heat Wave: How to Keep Your Cool

Thermometer showing Mercury Rising Bursting
When temperatures get hot, take steps to keep your cool.

Severe heat waves are not merely a nuisance and a boon for the power company. They can potentially cause serious health-related problems. My only gripe is when I hear the term: “dog days of summer.” Why must my species be associated with ridiculous heat? For the record, I don’t like it when people tell me they’re “dog tired.” We pooches have plenty of energy!

Extreme heat can cause heat stroke—a serious medical condition that can be deadly, especially for the very young and the elderly. Some summers, such as the summer of 2006, bring on extremely severe temperature highs that can damage buildings and roads and even kill.

The old adage: “It’s the heat, not the humidity” proves to be very true in a heat wave. Humidity is debilitating because sweat doesn’t readily evaporate away from skin since the surrounding air already contains so much moisture. This is a big reason why air conditioning feels so good…because it reduces the level of humidity. You should think about how I feel. I don’t sweat, so I have to cool off by panting all the time. It’s just embarrassing.

To manage a heat wave, it’s important to help your body to stay cool. One of the best ways to do this is to limit outside activities.

Tips for keeping cool in the summer sun:

  • Wear sunscreen, even on overcast days. If your skin gets red from too much heat, you are suffering from sunburn, which will leave you feeling hot and uncomfortable. Even dogs can get sunburn, especially my pals with light hair!
  • Drink plenty of cold liquids, avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
  • Shade is your friend. Shady areas can be up to 15 degrees cooler than their sunny counterparts, and will help regulate your body temperature.
  • Take it easy! The middle of a heat wave is the not the ideal time to take up jogging or another form of strenuous outdoor activity. I don’t want to go on a 10-mile walk. It is 104 degrees.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing to allow your body to expel excess heat. Elderly people have a difficult time monitoring their own body temperature and might tend to overdress for the conditions.
  • Eat small meals. It’s necessary for your core temperature to rises in order to digest big meals. Focus on frequency instead of quantity. For me, I have to disagree on this one. I enjoy eating a whole chicken or four pounds of ground beef in the summer.

Identify and manage heat stroke:

  • Body temperatures measure over 105.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Dry skin, rapid pulse and disorientation are all symptoms.
  • For severe cases, immersion in cool (but not cold) water is recommended. No ice cubes.
  • Hydration is very important, including use of either cool water or intravenous fluids if the victim is unable to drink.
  • To stave off heat stroke, drink before you start to feel thirsty.
  • Administer first aid to heat stroke victims until their temperature falls in a safe range (101-102 degrees).

Help your family to beat the heat:

  • Get out of the city! Urban areas are heat islands, where the temperatures remain warm even through the night. Cities also trap pollutants during heat waves. So plan a trip to a more rural area to escape summer crowds and heat. Take yourself and your pooch out to a farm for some fresh air and sheep chasing.
  • If you travel to a warm climate, make sure your accommodations and vehicle feature air conditioning.
  • If your home does not have an air conditioning unit, consider going somewhere during the hottest part of the afternoon. Shopping malls, movie theaters and public libraries are all cool summer destinations. I have a swamp cooler in the doghouse. Because that’s what you want, swamp like conditions. It sounds lovely!
  • Ceiling fans and standing fans don’t technically lower the temperature of a room, but they do create a “wind chill” effect where the body cools itself with a nice breeze.

If you are a building owner:

  • Test your air conditioning system to be sure it can handle the strain of prolonged usage. Clean filters will help the system run at optimal efficiency.
  • Implement the use of compact fluorescent bulbs instead of the heat-producing incandescent variety.
  • Consider adding inexpensive shade structure or fabric to cool outdoor patio areas.
  • Tinted windows can drastically reduce the heat coming into a building. I put some dark tint on the doghouse windows. It’s not exactly up to code, so let’s keep that on the “down low.”

Unlike other disasters, you can’t see the heat wave, you can just feel it. However, as with other disasters, preparation and common sense are your best tools for safely managing a heat wave.  I keep a close eye on children and other loved ones to be sure they have ready access to resources and helpful information.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit for more information and remember to BE SAFE.


RJ the Fire Dog is the mascot for Allied Universal, the premiere provider for e-based fire life safety training for residents and workers in high-rise buildings. His young son, JR, sometimes takes over writing his posts. RJ also maintains an active Twitter account, which he posts to when he isn’t working in the firehouse. The Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50%