I rarely ask JD about the weather and being married to a weatherman doesn’t necessarily mean I have any lowdown on what the weather is going to be. I am one of those people who go outside and see whether it’s warm, hot or raining and plan accordingly. Others need the information a week ahead of time because their livelihood depends on it. That’s where the meteorologist can really make sense. Coming out of the nirvana that was Independence Day, seeing the blue sky and feeling the Delta breeze, I thought we had this hot, smoky air business under control. The Big Sur, Santa Barbara and Butte fires changed all that. We’re in for the long haul I think. I don’t remember it ever being so bad and I’ve lived in California my whole life. Venturing to the other side of the track here, let me make a totally unqualified prediction…it’s hot hot hot!
What to do? We went into defense mode. Windows and shutters battened down, the dog shaved down to his nubs; plenty of fluids in the fridge and car, we brace the day when temps soar into the 80’s at 7 AM. The winter installation of the roof top solar panels proved to be worth their weight in cold hard cash, as they now soak up the electricity bills for the house air conditioning expense, what a relief because the price of gas is killing us! I have no doubt we’ll get through these triple digit days. However, reminded that others are not faring as well, we all need to be aware of the people around us who might need a helping hand. I am speaking of the elderly and shut ins who may or may not have the constitution to withstand this hot dry heat; and the little ones who need our constant attention as they enjoy cooling off in the water. We also need to be aware of parked vehicles on hot days where animals and small children can fall prey to the exponentially high temperature increases. What is 103 degrees outside may mean 130 degrees plus on the inside, all death traps. Beware.
Whether it’s stopping to check on those stranded on the roadside, to be sure they have the means to summon help, or throwing some water bottles their way while they wait, the little things help during the scorching days. Perhaps you live near someone who is living by themselves and could use a hand with outside chores. I think I’m going to send Conor to check on a few of the retirees in our neighborhood who might not be able to run their lawn mowers this week. He’s been outside practicing with the football team and comes home saying that even the limited amount of time that the guys are outdoors can be hard; imagine what it can do to the elderly, the young and the homeless. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are big summer risks in these 100+ degree days.
Flip flops and sunscreen aside, people also need to know that the more time you stay in the pool to keep cool, there are several things that you need to watch out for besides the sunburns. A fellow nursing student friend of mine sent me some information last month about a phenomenon called “Dry Drowning”, a condition one can develop from a sudden laryngospasm of the airway, causing it to snap shut (caused by a sudden rush of water into the airway). Another condition is sudden heart failure in sensitive groups who jump into extremely cold water. Whatever the cause, the person stops breathing and essentially asphyxiates without taking any water into the lungs. Another phenomenon, known as Secondary or Delayed Drowning can be caused when people swallow water in the pool, with subsequent small amounts settling into their lungs. These victims for a short time appear to function normally, long after they left the pool. Their slow onset of symptoms of fatigue and loss of bodily functions (like defecating on themselves) can prove to be fatal. The signals of secondary drowning are multifaceted and come later on as a result of the lack of oxygen being transported throughout the body. The CDC doesn’t differentiate between wet and dry drowning, but statistical data suggests that about 10-15% of drowning deaths are dry downing events. Last month, media reports quickly spread about a 10-year old South Carolina boy who went home and died in his sleep, after an unremarkable day in the pool. He apparently had the secondary drowning symptoms but his mother was unaware of such a possibility.
One thing is known for sure. Drowning is normally a very silent killer. While it’s mostly myth that people flail about and signal others they are in trouble, most victims slip under the water’s surface without a word, especially young children. This is why it’s vitally important to train one’s eyes unceasingly on those enjoying the water, because it only takes a second to lose track of swimmers enjoying the summer fun.
Stay the course, summer is underway, have fun, be smart, plan ahead, drink plenty of fluids and watch out for your neighbor, because while JD says we’re in a period of record breaking temperatures, I say it’s hot hot hot!
Tammy Maher is a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her on the web at http://www.familyfare.blogspot.com/