Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable

By Marshall Harshman
Posted 4/30/20

We have already had our first of many triple digit days to come. The heat isn’t just inconvenient; it’s dangerous.

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Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable


It is spring in the desert and if you take a walk outside in the early morning, you will hear a beautiful Sonoran Desert Symphony — the sound of gentle breeze rustling the tiny leaves of a mesquite tree; the screech of a distant Harris Hawk; the quail calling out to their chicks.

The only thing that can match the beauty of watching the sunrise over the Superstitions Mountains is seeing the vibrant colors exclusive to an Arizona sunset.

While the awe-inspiring sights and sounds of the spring desert are incredibly beautiful, the soaring temperatures can be deadly. It’s only early May, and we have already had our first of many triple digit days to come. The heat isn’t just inconvenient; it’s dangerous.

With the arrival of COVID-19, social distancing has become our new normal.

With that in mind, as we brace ourselves for the long summer months, we all still need to be looking out for each other.

As good citizens it’s up to us to watch out for the most vulnerable among us. The elderly are the most susceptible to heat-related illness.

With everyone so focused on social distancing, we may not realize that our neighbor may be living without a functional air-conditioner or cooler.

Even though your neighbor may not ask for help, he or she probably wouldn’t turn down an offer of assistance. If you have an elderly neighbor, check on them. Ask about their living situation. If they have a functional AC or cooler, check to make sure they know how to use it. Find out if they have family in the area and try to get emergency contact information.

If you have developed a relationship and are invited, enter their residence so you can assess the living conditions inside.

Watch for any changes in your neighbor’s routine. For example, if you notice that your neighbor usually opens their blinds first thing in the morning and then suddenly does not, there may be a problem. If your neighbor normally takes a morning walk but skips a day, check in on them.

Stay connected. Simply taking the time to look in on the people around us could save a life.

Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable. Here are some tips to avoid a trip to the emergency room during the hot part of the year:

• Drink water. Your body needs to stay hydrated in order to produce sweat. Sweat helps regulate your temperature. Avoid alcohol.

• Avoid sunburns. Sunburns make it more difficult for your body to expel heat. Wear sunscreen, carry an umbrella or wear a hat. Protect yourself from the sun.

• Spend the hot part of the day somewhere cool. If you don’t have an air-conditioning system, find someone that does. The library, malls, or grocery stores are nice cool places to hang out during the summer, when they reopen.

• Be careful with medications. The heat can create complications with certain prescription drugs. Consult your physician or pharmacist if you’re unsure.

• Avoid hot cars. Temperatures can reach an excess of 145 degrees in a parked car in the AZ summer. Never leave a child or a pet in a parked car. Not even for a minute.

• If you have the option, avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day. Exercise in the morning or early evening.

• If you must work in hot weather take extra precautions. Take regular and frequent breaks from the heat and drink plenty of water.

• If you are new to the area, allow your body to acclimate to the heat before jumping into a regular exercise routine. Be aware of the temperature swings. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to go from 78 degrees at 7 a.m. to 105 degrees at noon.

Stay healthy and stay connected.

Cpl. Marshall Harshman is community and media liaison officer for the Apache Junction Police Department.