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How to Survive the California Heat Wave
The California heat wave is adding yet another health risk to the ones the Bay Area is already facing this year. Extreme heat compounds ongoing threats from the lightning complex fires’ smoke pollution and the coronavirus.
“We’re at the center of an unfortunate Venn diagram with multiple overlapping emergencies,” says Dr. Rohan Radhakrishna, a deputy health officer in Contra Costa County. “We have racism, social inequity, climate change, poor air and a virus.”
Everyone should watch out for heat – and some of us really aren’t ready for it.
Where you live can make you more vulnerable to extreme heat.
The last time the Bay Area had a major heat wave in 2017, 79 percent of people killed by heat began to get sick at home. In Contra Costa and in Santa Clara counties, homes that had their temperature and humidity measured over a period of time became hotter inside than out, and held onto heat longer. At night, houses might be 15-20 degrees warmer inside than it is outside.
That’s a problem for people who can’t afford or don’t have air conditioning, says the Public Health Institute’s Linda Rudolph.
“When the nighttime temperatures don’t go down, which is what’s increasingly happening with climate change, it’s harder for them to get that kind of physiological rest period.” Linda Rudolph, Center for Climate Change and Health.
Here’s How You Can Cope
DO: Drink lots of water.
“People lose huge amounts of fluid from their body when it’s hot. So the key message is drink, drink, drink – nonalcoholic, please,” says Dr. Gina Solomon, with the Public Health Institute.
She also says:
DON’T: Eat spicy food.
“Spicy food causes your blood vessels to dilate. That probably makes you sweat a little bit more. That’s okay, but then just make sure you drink enough.”
AVOID: Alcohol and caffeine.
Or at the very least, know that you still need to drink water to offset them. That’s because they’re both potent diuretics: that is, they cause you to go to the bathroom. “That reduces your body water,” Dr. Solomon notes. “You might think that drinking alcohol or drinking a lot of coffee would be helpful, but it’s less helpful than you think.”
PHI’s Solomon points out that in a battle between two threats, heat-related illness can kill people quickly.
“Air pollution isn’t good for people, but it’s less likely to kill you right away. If you end up in a furnace situation in a closed house with no air conditioning, that’s immediately dangerous to your health.” Dr. Gina Solomon, PHI.
She points out that counties are still running cooling centers, socially distanced. Alameda County public officials offer tips about protecting health against smoke that include keeping cool in air-conditioned malls, which are open at 25% capacity. And there’s always the frozen food aisle…
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Originally published by KQED