Coping with Heat During a Pandemic

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)–We don’t need to tell you how hot it can get in San Bernardino County and throughout Southern California, and forecasters are saying this current triple-digit heat wave is unlikely to break within the next week to 10 days.

But the extreme weather does not eliminate the need to socially distance or to wear a mask when in close contact with others. At the same time, however, it’s important to recognize that wearing masks, while essential for mitigating the spread of coronavirus, can make things worse for some people.

Matthew Levy, D.O., M.Sc., an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, advises people to be especially cautious when going outside, particularly if they have a respiratory condition or other underlying health problems. He also said that people shouldn’t try to cool themselves by dousing their mask or face covering in water, since that can compromise their filtration capabilities.

The best idea is to stay inside as much as possible. It’s especially important to avoid being outside (or at least skip any strenuous activities) during the hottest time of day — generally between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Limit your exposure to the sun, and if you do go outside, take frequent breaks, find shade, wear light clothing and a hat, and use sunscreen.

The County website has this list of indoor cooling centers, each with their own operating hours and restrictions. With conditions constantly in flux due to COVID-19, be sure to call the venue before visiting. Seniors should take advantage of the Senior Information and Assistance Hotline at 1-800-510-2020.

Following are some additional tips for keeping cool while helping prevent the spread of COVID-19:

Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, even if you aren’t thirsty, and avoid dehydrating beverages such as caffeine and alcohol. And please don’t share water bottles or canteens, which can spread the virus.

Take steps to prepare your home if you don’t have air conditioning. Cover any windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, or even sheets. You might consider making temporary window reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to place between windows and drapes. Taking a cool bath or applying a wet towel to your forehead can help you stay cool when it’s hot indoors.

Never leave children, pets or adults alone in closed vehicles. The temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets, and adults. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate.

Recognize the potential dangers of excessive heat. Know the signs and symptoms of heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps, and call 9-1-1 if you or a loved one is experiencing them.

Children, older adults and pets tend to be more vulnerable to extreme heat, so monitor family members and connect virtually with friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they’re okay. This is especially important for those that don’t have air conditioning.

Extreme hot weather can be a real inconvenience at any time and can be particularly challenge during this pandemic. Be careful, and take the necessary steps to protect your health — and the health of others.

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