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Stay safe and cool on hot days | The Homepage

By Juliet Martinez

Coach James Cole looks out for his summer day campers in the hot weather as a matter of course.

“If it’s too hot, we just allow the kids to play water games, like water balloon fights,” he said, waving toward the spray park outside the cafeteria at Burgwin school on an 85-degree day in July.

“We have air conditioning in here. We make sure they’re hydrated and they’re drinking water, not juice or pop,” he added.

Kids in swimsuits move out a door while an adult staffer cleans up behind them.
Kids at Camp Hazelwood on July 11. Under Coach James Cole's watchful eye, they play in the sprinklers, go swimming or hang out in the air conditioning to keep cool in hot weather. Photo by Juliet Martinez

With recent global temperatures setting records, the chances of facing dangerously high heat here in Pittsburgh are rising too. Extreme heat can be deadly; in July, researchers published findings in the journal Nature that more than 60,000 people died during Europe’s heat waves last year.

The most dangerous heat conditions occur when both heat and humidity are high. When the temperature is over 87 degrees and the humidity is over 96%, it becomes impossible to cool off through the body’s normal mechanisms.

When we get hot, we sweat. A breeze comes along – or we turn on a fan – and it evaporates that sweat, cooling us off. But when the humidity is close to 100%, sweat cannot evaporate and cool us off. When that happens, we may become sick or even die.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says babies and young children up to age four, people over 65, people with large bodies and those taking certain medications are most vulnerable to heat-related illness or death.

The most serious heat-related illness is heat stroke, which is characterized by a body temperature over 103 degrees; red, hot and dry skin without sweat; headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and loss of consciousness.

If you see someone who looks like they could be having heat stroke, call 911 and get them into the shade or air conditioning as fast as possible. Have them take a cool bath or shower. Take their temperature and continue cooling them off until paramedics arrive or their temperature is under 102 degrees.

Just as Coach Cole said, water is essential. Adults should not drink alcohol in high heat, as it contributes to dehydration.

He said the kids have scheduled swimming twice a week but bring their swimsuits to camp every day. He can change plans in response to high temperatures as well.

“If it’s too hot and we have something planned, alright, we won’t do this the second half of the day. We’ll go to the pool,” he said.

Juliet Martinez is the managing editor of The Homepage.


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