man drinks water

Drinking plenty of water during the summer months is one of the best ways to stay healthy when it is hot. Health experts advise to drink extra water even when you are not thirsty.

It’s hot in Florida during the summertime. You never know when a thunderstorm might pop up. The mosquitos can be awful. Consequently, people spend more time indoors with the air conditioners running.

And when they go outside, they need to be prepared with sunscreen, bug spray and plenty of water. The climate experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, aka NOAA, are already predicting above normal temperatures through at least July. Fortunately, at this time, there are no signs of a drought but we’ll have to wait and see.

Everyone also needs to keep an eye on the weather, especially during hurricane season, June 1-Nov. 30.

NOAA has yet to issue its hurricane forecast, but other experts have and they are calling for an above normal season. For information on how to prepare, visit www.pinellascounty.org/resident/disasters.htm.

Don’t leave home without it

Florida is the Sunshine State. And sunscreen is a must, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is strongest. The Florida Department of Health recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher anytime you’re out and about, even when it is cloudy.

Mosquito repellant is another must-have when you go outdoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using any EPA-approved insect repellant that contains DEET, Picaridin, oil of eucalyptus or 2-undecanone.

Always follow the product label instructions and reapply repellant as directed. Do not spray repellant on the skin under clothing. If you are using a sunscreen, apply it first and the insect repellant second. Do not use insect repellant on babies younger than 2 months old and do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus or products with para-methane-diol on children under age 3.

Beat the heat

Heat can be deadly. From 1999 to 2010, 8,801 people died of heat-related deaths in the United States, according to the CDC. However, most people can avoid problems from heat-related illnesses by using the following tips.

Some people are more at-risk, including those who work in hot or humid conditions, and chronic alcoholics, the elderly, the young, the obese, and individuals with a compromised immune system. Individuals taking certain drugs, such as antihistamines, antipsychotic medications and cocaine also need to take care.

The CDC recommends that people at higher risk stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. They should drink water even when they’re not thirsty. Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Take cool baths or showers.

People who work outdoors are more likely to become dehydrated, the CDC says. People who work outdoors should drink two to four cups of water every hour. Avoid alcohol or liquids with a lot of sugar. Stop all activity and move to a cool environment if you feel faint or weak.

If possible, do outdoor tasks early or late in the day. Wear a brimmed hat and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Spend time in air-conditioned buildings during breaks and after work. Take breaks to cool off and drink water.

People who exercise in extreme heat often risk having the same problems as those who work outdoors. The CDC advises them to limit outdoor activity, especially midday when the sun is hottest. Drink lots of water.

Never leave infants or children in a parked car, even if the windows are open. (This goes for pets too).

CDC offers some warning signs to help people recognize when they might be experiencing a serious heat-related illness. Muscle cramping is often the first sign. People suffering from heat exhaustion experience heavy sweating; weakness; a fast, weak pulse; cold, pale and clammy skin; and nausea or vomiting. They may even faint.

If these symptoms occur, move to a cooler location. Then lie down and loosen clothing. Cool, wet cloths should be applied to as much of the body as possible. Sip water. If vomiting occurs, seek medical attention immediately.

Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat-related illness. Symptoms include having a high body temperature (above 103 degrees), hot, red, dry or moist skin, and a rapid and strong pulse. A person suffering from heat stroke may even lose consciousness.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. Move the person to a cooler environment. Reduce the body temperature using cool cloths or even a bath. Do not give fluids.

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Anyone outdoors when “thunder roars” is urged to seek shelter in a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle immediately. Then wait 30 minutes after the storm has passed to go back outside.

Lightning safety

The National Weather Service uses the phrase, “When it roars, go indoors” to prompt people to take heed when they hear the sound of thunder to prevent being struck by lightning. Anyone outdoors when “thunder roars” is urged to seek shelter in a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle immediately. Then wait 30 minutes after the storm has passed to go back outside.

NWS says no place outside is safe during a thunderstorm. If you can’t get to a safe place, avoid open areas, stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or utility poles. Lightning tends to strike the tallest objects.

If someone is struck by lightning, call 911. Give first aid. Begin CPR. If possible, move the victim to a safer location.

Fireworks

Officials urge residents to let the experts handle the fireworks and recommend that people attend one of the many professional fireworks shows that are normally scheduled around the county. There are two reasons for this recommendation: first fireworks are dangerous, and second, it is illegal to use exploding and/or flying fireworks, which include shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets and firecrackers. Sparklers are legal, but should be used with caution.

It’s not all bad

While safety is important during the summer months, mostly due to the weather, there is one silver lining – fewer people. Plenty of visitors still flock to the beaches, but the snowbirds are gone, so traffic is lighter. You can find a spot at your favorite restaurant. Entertainment venues are less crowded. So take care and have fun. Summer in Pinellas is upon us.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.