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How to Stay Cool During a Heat Wave + Bad Air Quality

by | Aug 26, 2020 | Fire, Heat Safety

The smoky air caused by a string of wildfires has made the ongoing heat wave feel even worse. Add a pandemic, and you have a recipe for one miserable summer.

Have faith. We have made it through devastating wildfires and unbearable heat waves before, and we will again. And we’ve made it through six months of sheltering in place so far. This too shall pass.

As you wait for the fog to roll in and the wildfires to be contained, take these precautions to stay safe in the heat and smoke.

To Beat the Heat

  • Drink more water than usual. When it’s 80 degrees or more in your apartment, you’ll sweat even at rest. Replace what you lose with cold, pure water.
  • If you’re over 65 or have a chronic medical condition, take additional precautions. If you have a window AC, use it when you sleep and to keep your living area at a comfortable temperature. If you don’t have AC, consider a portable unit if you can afford it. If that’s not an option, visit one of your county’s cooling centers. They are required to follow public health requirements around COVID-19.
  • To save energy and to keep your home cooler, use the oven and stove during cooler parts of the day. And don’t waste energy standing in front of an open refrigerator or freezer! Instead, take cool showers.
  • Check in on friends and neighbors at high risk of heat illness.
  • Recognize the signs of heat stroke: nausea, dizziness, confusion, a racing heart, and a temperature of 104F or higher. If you experience these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention. In the meantime, get to an air-conditioned or shaded area as soon as possible. Cool off with damp sheets, a cool shower and a fan.
  • Drive carefully. The hottest months of the year are the busiest for motor vehicle crashes. August has the highest number of vehicle fatalities, and September is near the top according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Why? One study found excessive heat contributes to driver fatigue. Vacation drivers may also play a role; however, that’s likely not a factor this year.

To Cope With Smoke

  • Stay indoors, with windows closed, as much as possible when the air quality is poor. If your home gets too hot, seek out a nearby cooling center.
  • Walking, running and cycling outdoors are great ways to stay physically and mentally healthy right now. Until the wildfire smoke resolves, head outdoors during the cooler, early morning hours when air quality is at its best. Limit outdoor activity if the Air Quality Index moves into the orange or red ranges.
  • If you have a mask with a PM2.5 filter, wear it when you’re outside. It will protect your lungs from some of the damaging airborne pollutants IF it fits well. It will also keep your respiratory droplets from spreading.
  • Use HEPA-filtered air cleaners inside the home.
  • If you have asthma, COPD or another lung condition, contact your doctor for advice. You’ll need to take extra precautions to protect your lungs.

If you get injured while the sun beats down due to someone else’s negligence, please get medical attention right away. When you’re ready, call our office for a free consultation. We meet with clients by phone, video, or in person using masks, physical distancing and other COVID-safe protocols.