As much as Valley residents seem to treat the heat as no big deal or at worst a mild annoyance, it’s actually a serious health risk. If you underestimate the desert heat and don’t take precautions, you could be one of the 2,000 people who wind up in emergency rooms every summer. We definitely don’t want that, so read on for five things to know that will help you survive the heat and get through our summer safely. And if you take away nothing else, remember that in an Arizona summer, consider a bottle of water to be your most important fashion accessory.
1. Know the signs of heat illness
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the path to a life-threatening heat stroke follows a fairly predictable series of steps, with several warning signs along the way.
Thirsty: Being thirsty signals that you’re already starting to get dehydrated. As soon as you get thirsty, make it a point to drink some water and get out of the heat.
Heat cramps: Cramping, pain and spams in your abdominal muscles and legs signals that you losing too much water and salt. Drink water and get inside.
Heat exhaustion: Signs you are entering dangerous territory include “cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion.” However, your body temperature will be near normal. With these symptoms, get inside right away and drink half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes until you improve.
Heat stroke: During heat stroke, your temperature spikes and can damage your brain and internal organs. Other signs include “hot, red and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing.” At this point, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Some ways to avoid heat illness include staying indoors; wearing lightweight clothes in light colors; taking regular breaks; and, naturally, drinking a lot of water. We’re sure you’ve heard that advice before, and you might even try following it. However, when it comes to drinking water, you might not realize that you need to …
2. Drink more water than you think
Planning to hydrate is good. However, if you’re outside in the Phoenix sun, you’re going to need a lot more than 8 cups of water for the day.
In addition to temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, the summer humidity in Phoenix ranges between a balmy 10 percent and a throat-parching 2 percent. And that’s not hyperbole; you can drink an entire glass of water and your mouth will feel parched within a minute. Even worse, your sweat often evaporates almost as soon as it leaves your body, so you might not realize how much water you’re losing.
If you’re going outside for any reason, take a bottle of water; for a hike take several bottles of water or a drinking system such as a Camelbak.
If you just have to go outside, you might be tempted to wait until night when it’s cooler. It’s a logical plan, but you should know …
3. Phoenix doesn’t get cool
If you’re thinking you just have to survive the heat until nighttime, hoping that Phoenix becomes bearable when the sun goes down, we’re sorry to disappoint you. Nighttime low temperatures might get below 80 degrees, but only around 4 a.m. In fact, early morning is a much better time for outdoor activities than late evening.
Up through midnight, temperatures will still be in the 90s. In the height of summer, overnight temperature can often stay ABOVE 90 degrees even after dark, and the humidity doesn’t increase at all. On the plus side, you won’t get sunburned.
4. Car interiors can easily reach 150+ degrees
During summer, the interior temperature of a parked car can skyrocket. According to the Phoenix Fire Department, that interior temperature can reach 138 degrees in as little as five minutes and 150 degrees or higher in 15 minutes – even with the windows cracked.
While you can exit a hot car when it becomes uncomfortable, children and pets don’t have the luxury of escaping. Under no circumstances leave your children or pets in the car, even “for a minute.”
In addition, when entering the car, be careful not to touch any metal in the car and, if you have black leather seats, definitely cover them with a towel. Invest in a windshield cover and a fabric steering wheel cover as well, or you’ll be trying the old “socks on the hands” trick.
5. Cars don’t like heat
In the Valley of the Sun, we never deal with cars that won’t start because its too cold (one of the many reason people move here). However, even our cars can struggle to survive the heat. Extreme heat and low humidity can cause different problems, from the obvious overheating to damaged rubber hoses and dead batteries.
That last one usually comes as a surprise, but as with smartphone and laptop batteries, the summer heat kills car batteries faster than you’d expect. If you get two years out of a car battery you’re doing well here. And at the point you notice the battery dying, you might have a few short days to get it replaced. It pays to get your car checked regularly.
As long as you keep the above dangers and our advice in mind, you should have no trouble surviving a Phoenix summer. Share with us your tips to survive the heat.