Keeping your cool outdoors
Tips from the experts: those who do it everyday
County worker Brandi Ankenman went from deskwork in an air-conditioned environment to physical work in stifling summer heat.
“It’s just hot,” the 40-something worker for the weed department said. “I wear sunglasses but no hat, so I have the raccoon-look going on. I’m definitely not seasoned to it and I can tell. I drink a lot more water than I used to, and I’m just tired. I sleep really well at night.”
Like many Marion County workers, she’s learning how to adapt to 90-degree heat this week. Accustomed to doing yard work in the heat, she had to get used to spending all day in the weather.
Among other duties, she drives county roads, probing ditches for noxious weeds, which she then sprays.
“I could have the AC on in my pickup, blowing full blast, but I don’t because it makes it harder on me,” she said. “I have to stop and get out frequently.”
She keeps her county pickup’s air conditioner on low and cracks the windows to allow more airflow while she putters along at 10 mph.
“I think I have adjusted to it,” she said. “What I do is nothing like the road and bridge guys do. They are out in it all day. I’m nobody special but I guess it’s more about mind over matter.”
Flaggers and roller workers for road and bridges don’t get air conditioning at all, but superintendent Jesse Hamm provides five-gallon jugs of ice water and encourages crewmembers to use them frequently.
They dip rags in the water and wrap them around their necks and heads, Hamm said.
Gatorade in other water jugs to helps crewmembers replenish electrolytes.
“We’ve had a few guys that didn’t feel so good so far this summer on the hotter days,” Hamm said. “But we just had them rest in the shade or get in a cool cab with AC. If it ever gets really bad, you can tell if someone needs to go the hospital.”
People suffering from heat stress may experience heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale, and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; and nausea or vomiting, experts say. Early signs include muscle cramps, heat rash, fainting or near-fainting spells, and a pulse rate greater than 100.
Experts recommend sufferers be moved to a cooler location and lie down.
Cool, wet cloths should be applied, especially to the head, neck, armpits and upper legs near the groin. The person should sip not gulp or chug water and remain in the cool location until his or her pulse is well below 100.
Signs of heat stroke, which requires prompt medical attention, include a body temperature above 103 degrees; hot, red skin; rapid and strong pulse; and altered mental state, which can range from confusion and agitation to unconsciousness.
Children are especially vulnerable to heat illnesses, but may be unable to explain what is wrong. In extreme heat, changes in a child’s behavior may signal heat stress.
Older adults face additional risk.
To help prevent heat-related illness, experts offer these tips:
- Spend time in air-conditioning.
- Drink plenty of water or diluted sport electrolyte drinks (1 part sport drink to 2 parts water).
- Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.