It's not a secret that we have been stuck in a heat wave this past month. From Chicago to Atlanta to Washington, D.C., people have been stuck in 100-plus weather for days, and for some, without any electricity. Summer is the season for sun and fun, but the past few weeks have shown us that this heat and humidity are not a game. They can be downright dangerous.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between the years 1979 to 2003, there were over 8,000 deaths due to heat. CBS News reported that in the past few weeks, the heat has killed 24 people.
Nine people in Maryland have died of heat-related causes in recent days, the state said. Authorities in Chicago said heat was a factor in six deaths there, mostly among older people. Three deaths in Wisconsin, two in Tennessee and one in Pennsylvania were also reported to be heat-related.
In Ohio, a man in his 70s and two women — one in her late 60s, the other in her 80s — were found dead this week, said Dr. Jeff Lee, a deputy county coroner in the central part of the state. He said all three were suffering from heart disease but died from stress caused by high temperatures in their houses. Temperatures inside were stifling, recorded in the 90s in two cases, with windows shut and no ventilation. The houses lacked electricity because of recent power outages.
Those who are most at risk are the elderly, babies and toddlers, people with mental illness and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. But being young and relatively healthy doesn't mean you are exempt from the danger, especially if you are outside working out or playing sports.
To avoid getting sick during the extreme heat, the CDC offers up these tips:
—Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location.
—Drink plenty of fluids, preferably cool water — NOT alcohol or sugary sports drinks and soda. They will only dehydrate you.
—Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
—Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
—Check on a friend or neighbor — especially the elderly — and have someone do the same for you.
—Do not leave children in cars.
—Check the local news for health and safety updates.
—Also don't forget your pets. Keep them in a cool place and make sure they have enough water.
And while being in an air-conditioned area during the peak hours of the heat is recommended, the reality is that not everyone can afford air conditioning or have transportation to a local cooling center. Here are some helpful suggestions on staying cool without help from the AC.
—Close your windows and blinds/curtains during the day. It will keep the heat from outside from seeping in your home. At night when it's cooler, pop windows open and let the cool air come in.
—Takes showers throughout the day and sit in front of the fan. This is what helps to keep one's body temp down and to sleep throughout the night.
—Create your wind tunnel. If there's a cool breeze, particularly at night, set one fan facing out the window and the other face facing out on the opposite end of the house. This allows you to maximize on the breeze created.
—Keep the stove off. Opt for cooking in toaster ovens, stove tops or counter grills to make healthy meals. Also, keep it light and cool with crisp, fresh salads.
To find a cooling center near you, please call your local city or county, or call PG&E's toll-free cooling centers locator line at 877-474-3266 or the website for more information.
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(Photo: Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)
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