Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2001

Things are heating up around Eudora

June 28, 2001

An egg may not fry on a sidewalk, but just about everything else seems to be sizzling from the heat waves rising from the pavement to the once-lush, green grass, now a crispy shade of burnt.

Welcome to a Kansas summer.

The dog days of summer affect more than just those with fur. As the mercury rises, so do health risks for humans as well as their pets.

People spending a lot of time outside, whether working or playing, need to find ways to beat the heat.

City workers with outside assignments stay cool thanks in part to coolers they carry with them on the trucks.

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn't require the wearing of hats and gloves, city superintendent Bill Harlow said the city wants its workers to wear them when they are outside.

"We just do it for our own protection," Harlow said. "You've got to take care of them."

But staying cool requires a little common sense, too.

"You can only do so much," he said. "They've got to also use their heads."

Registered nurse Sylvia Neis said drinking fluids and wearing light-colored clothing made sense for those spending a considerable amount of time outside, like construction workers and farmers.

But they've probably developed a greater tolerance to the high temperatures, Neis said.

"I think your body kind of acclimates itself to that," she said.

People who normally spend their time indoors can't resist the heat as well, she said.

"There are people who are used to being inside in the air conditioning and then go outside and work in the garden for a couple of hours and they get nauseated, they get headaches and actually become unconscious because of the dehydration," she said.

Dehydration, in combination with raised body temperature, can cause heat stroke, and the elderly are often more susceptible.

"Most elderly people tend to be more cold-blooded than hot, and they'll shut themselves up in the house without any windows open," she said. "It kind of creeps up on them without knowing it."

Children probably aren't as much at risk, Neis said, because they usually keep hydrated, especially at sporting events where coaches and parents push fluids.

But they need to take it easy, too, especially when it's the first time they're out for the season.

"Most of the people go out and start playing real hard, and that's how they get in trouble," physician Kenneth Holladay said. "Especially the kids who get out on the football fields in August."

Although water is just fine for keeping hydrated, Holladay recommends sports drinks like Gatorade rather than their stronger counterparts.

Better yet, he said, mix a homemade dehydration remedy: to a quart of water add 1/2 tsp. salt, a couple of tablespoons sugar and 4 to 5 ounces of fruit juice.

"You really need the salt, and drinking that will keep you hydrated," he said.

Holladay also recommended keeping the head covered and getting shade when at all possible. Loose-fitting clothing allows the body to better ventilate.

Eudora doesn't experience too many serious heat-related health problems, Holladay said.

"In the big cities you have these apartments where people don't get their ventilation," he said.

Pet "parents" need to keep just as good of an eye on their four-legged charges as well.

Ron Lee, a veterinarian at Eudora Animal Hospital, said he sees a few pets every year suffering from the heat. Any time the temperature gets above 90 degrees, pet owners need to take precautions, especially with older pets whose cardiovascular systems can't keep up with the heat.

The most serious injury Lee sees is heat stroke. Dogs with black coats that soak up the sun and heat are the most susceptible, he said.

"They get real disoriented; they're panting and incoherent," he said. "It's really a medical emergency."

But animals were meant to be outside, right? Not if they are breeds like St. Bernards, chows, Siberian huskies and malamutes, Lee said.

"A lot of the different breeds that we have here in Eudora were bred for colder climates, and there they are living in Eudora where the temperature gets to 105 degrees."

To keep dogs comfortable during the heat, Lee said a good supply of fresh water that can't be knocked over and spilled is essential. For long-haired dogs like chows, a trim may be in order.

As far as pets go, cats are far better off, Lee said.

"Cat's originated as desert animals," he said. "They're very efficient with the water they drink. They're able to find a shady spot outside."

Neither pets nor livestock are immune to the dangers of the sun. Cattle can get pink eye from ultraviolet light exposure. Dogs, especially collies and certain breeds of horses, can sunburn, especially on their noses where their skin has little pigment. Prolonged exposure can lead to cancer.

"We tell people to keep them painted up with sunscreen," he said.

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