Oppressive heat mixed with irresponsible behavior too often can create a recipe for tragedy.
That mixture is vital to remember this week as the Mahoning and Shenango valleys bake under one of the longest and most extreme heat waves in several years.
The forecast from the National Weather Service for our region calls for high temperatures nearing or exceeding 90 degrees to linger relentlessly through Friday. Heat indexes are expected to reach near or above 100 degrees several of those days.
The dangers of such heat is nothing to scoff at. Each year an average of 658 Americans succumb to extreme heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sadly, virtually all heat-related deaths and serious illnesses are preventable providing everyone embraces and practices common-sense precautions.
Though certain segments of the population, most notably young children, overweight individuals, senior citizens and pets are at higher risk for heat-induced sickness and death, no one is immune from the potential ravages of extreme heat and humidity.
To ward off danger, the Ohio Department of Health offers easy-to-follow tips that everyone should embrace during these sultry summer days. Among them:
Drink plenty of water – before you are thirsty – and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can lead to dehydration. Adults should consume eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
Stay in a cool place, preferably somewhere with air conditioning. Take cool showers or baths.
Plan outdoor activities for the early morning or evening when condictions tend to be cooler, and wear loose-fitting clothing.
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays and has a sun protection factor of at least 15.
In addition, family members, neighbors and friends of high-risk groups for heat stroke and heat exhaustion – including the elderly and those with chronic conditions – should make a priority of checking on their health and safety periodically throughout the run of extreme weather conditions.
Older adults and their caregivers should be cognizant of potential symptoms of heat-induced sickness. According to the Ohio Department of Aging, these most often include overall weakness, lightheadedness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, headaches, unusual skin temperature or color and general disorientation.
If any of those symptoms are present, immediate medical attention should be sought.
On the opposite end of the age spectrum, parents and guardians must never leave children unattended in locked cars during any period of extreme heat. According to the National Safety Council, on average, 37 children die each year due to pediatric vehicular heatstroke; 42 children died during 2017.
HEAT’S IMPACT ON DOGS
The fatalities among dogs and other animals annually from PVH are believed to number in the thousands. On a 90-degree day, for example, the interior temperature of a vehicle can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
As with others, watchful and compassionate observers can be lifesavers for our four-legged friends. Those witnessing dogs struggling in hot vehicles should immediately notify authorities.
So, too, must local police and humane officials be contacted upon signs of other heat-rel ated neglect and abuse toward dogs.
Unfortunately, such a call for assistance came too late last Friday, when Niles police responded to a report of a dog being left outside without, water or shelter from the sun or heat. Upon arriving officers made a gruesome discovery; the dog had already passed away.
Fortunately, Niles authorities plan to file felony charges today under Ohio’s new Goddard’s Law on animal cruelty against the owner. Other law-enforcement agencies throughout the Valley should follow that get-tough example.
For pets and humans alike, however, the heat wave expected through much of this week need not put a damper on Independence Day activities and summer fun. Relief is as close as the nearest beach, pool or any of many cool air-conditioned entertainment venues.