A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Heat wave overtaking the state leading up to the holiday; here are some important tips for coping

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Hot and humid weather is expected throughout Kentucky leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, prompting heat advisories and words of caution from health officials.
“This has been the strangest weather year in my 32 years of forecasting,” said Joe Sullivan with the National Weather Service in Louisville, pointing out a colder than normal April, the warmest May on record and more heat and humidity in June and heading into July.

“You can expect heat index readings at or over 100 right on through the Fourth of July,” said Sullivan.  Heat advisories were issued Friday for that part of Kentucky west of a line from Owensboro to Hopkinsville, where the heat index, a measure of the combination of temperature and relative humidity on the body, could reach 105 to 110. 

“Heat indices that high mean the body cannot cool itself off by sweating,” Sullivan said.  “This could be dangerous over the next several days, especially for people who have no access to air conditioning.” 

Sullivan said while rural areas won’t have readings as high as the so-called “urban islands” like Louisville and Lexington, if you are in the downtown area of even a small town where there is a lot of asphalt, you’ll experience hotter conditions.

There are some steps you can to help cope with the heat, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Health:

·       Drink plenty of fluids. Increase your normal fluid intake regardless of your activity level. You will need to drink more fluids than your thirst level indicates. This is especially true for people age 65 or older who often have a decreased ability to respond to external temperature changes. In addition, avoid drinking beverages containing alcohol, because they cause you to lose more fluids.

·       Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Choose lightweight, light colored, loose fitting clothing. In the hot sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat that will provide shade and keep the head cool. Sunscreen should be SPF 15 or greater and applied 30 minutes before going out into the sun.

·       Stay cool indoors. The most efficient way to beat the heat is to stay in an air-conditioned area. If you do not have an air conditioner, consider visiting a mall or public library.

·       Schedule outdoor activities carefully. If you must be out in the heat, try to plan your activities so that you are outdoors either before noon or in the evening. Rest periodically so your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover.

·       Use a buddy system. When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness.

·       Monitor those at high risk. Those at greatest risk of heat-related illness include:
                  – Infants and children up to 4 years of age

                  – People 65 years of age or older

                  – People who are overweight

                  – People who overexert during work or exercise

                  – People who are ill or on certain medications for blood pressure or diuretics
Sullivan urges one more precaution: “Look before you lock. In other words, check the back seat. If you leave a child in the back seat in these conditions, it will only take a few minutes for a hot car to be dangerous to a youngster.”

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