A Broke-Ass Guide to Beating the Heatwave
Wednesday and Thursday are going to hot. Hot, like up to 107 degrees in Concord kind of hot. For those out there without the luxury of air conditioning, heat like that can be miserable and debilitating for you and your pets. Temperatures will begin trending down Friday, but until then…
The best, and cheapest, ways to avoid getting sick from the heat are really quite simple.
Strip! Get down to as little clothing as possible. Take off any tight or unnecessary clothing and especially shoes and shoes if at all possible. Dig out the flip-flops even if your toes are jacked — when it’s this kind of hot, nobody gives a shit about your feet. If you’re home and won’t traumatize small children, have yourself an underwear day.
Stay hydrated! Keep a bottle of water on you at all times and drink more water than you normally would. Alternate between water and beverages with electrolytes, and don’t shy from a little salt with your meals. Unfortunately, caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate you — avoid them as much as possible through the hottest part of the day and reward yourself with a beer once it cools down.
Shower! Forget water conservation for just these couple of days and jump in for a cool shower as often as you need.
Keep cool! If home, close all the windows and doors and darken up the joint right now! Keep as much cool inside and heat outside as you possibly can. Open things back up once the air starts to move and it’s cooler outdoors than it is indoors, and then repeat cycle for Thursday morning. Turn on every fan you can find! Use damp washcloths or paper towels to put around your neck and bust out the spray bottle if you have one.
Keep your pets safe! Skip the walk over the next two days if you can. High temperatures can burn their paws on asphalt or concrete and they are just as susceptible to heat-related illness as you are. Use the shower, fans, and paper towel tricks for your four-legged friends and keep their water bowls full — adding ice cubes to their water can help quite a bit.
If needed, find your local cooling center.
The Concord Senior Center at 2727 Parkside Circle opens as a cooling center when temperatures rise above 100 degrees. The center will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.
Additional cooling centers are offered throughout Contra Costa County and can be found through the county’s updated resource list.
Check out the local community pools, which often open up for free swim during heatwaves, or look into spray parks in your neighborhood. Do some mall window shopping and hijack their air conditioning for the day or if you have $20 bucks, hit up the movie theater for a couple hours of relief.
The risk of heat-related illness increases with age but younger folks, especially athletes, may also be vulnerable. It’s important to understand the symptoms so that you can recognize it in yourself and others and seek medical care if necessary.
Heat cramps are usually brought on by working or exercising in a hot environment and result in painful muscle cramps that can occur hours after the activity. Excessive sweating and replacement with just water can add to the risk. In this case, sodium is your friend, as are electrolytes. There are tons of electrolyte products out there that promise super human endurance but good old fashioned Pedialyte can help set you straight.
Heat exhaustion is heat stroke’s less harmful but still dangerous baby brother. It’s obviously induced by exposure to high temperatures and often associated with dehydration of either water or salt in your system, caused by excessive sweating. Symptoms can include: confusion, dark-colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pale skin, profuse sweating and rapid heartbeat. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, which absolutely requires medical care. Don’t let it get there if you can avoid it.
Heat stroke is nothing to toy with. The illness, which often progresses from the lesser heat-related illnesses above, can cause mess with your nervous system, cause brain damage, put you into a coma or kill you if untreated. Keeping your core body temperature under 104 degrees is key to avoiding heat stroke, so do that any way you can. Seriously. Symptoms to watch for include: fainting; throbbing headache; dizziness and light-headedness; lack of sweating; red, hot and dry skin; muscle weakness or cramps; nausea and vomiting; rapid heartbeat; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion, disorientation or staggering; seizures and unconsciousness.
Go to the hospital, even if you do not have insurance, if you think you are experiencing heat stroke and call your local county advice nurse if you have questions.
You can reach an advice nurse for Contra Costa Health Services 24 hours a day, seven days at week at 1-877-661-6230, option 1. In Alameda County, advice nurses are available at 1-888-433-1876.
In dealing with heat-related illness, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry.