Staying Cool on a Hot Day

Photojournalist Andy Wolf, doing the hot job of following letter carrier Tom Buffum around.

With the heat and humidity index making it feel like 95 - 100 degrees on Tuesday, there were lots of people working outside, and taking the temperatures in stride.

On Syracuse's North Side, it was trash pickup day in some neighborhoods, and the garbage and recycling crews were doing the job--dressed in heavy gloves and shoes, and safety vests made of non-breathable fabric. The heat did not slow them down--we watched them running from driveway to driveway, doing their pickups. "It does get them warm," says DPW First Deputy Commissioner Tom Simone, "and we don't mind if they get too hot that they take a break." So don't be surprised to see DPW trucks at corner or convenience stores, picking up something cold.

Letter carriers also do their rounds, no matter what the weather. Near Bellevue Country Club this afternoon, 9-year veteran Tom Buffum, in sunglasses and a white helmet, was delivering mail on his 11.8-mile daily route, much of it up and down hills.

He wears SPF50 sun block, and keeps a two gallon jug of icewater and a cold, wet towel in the mail truck to keep from overheating.

This is prime roofing season, and being up high, on black roofing material, can be brutal. "Very hot," roofer Shawn Biser told us from his job on Syracuse's South Side. "Doesn't matter how hot it is, you gotta make the money." Biser's Trade-Mark Construction expects to do 50 roofs this summer. He says a damp cloth around the head--and the breeze--help. Some companies we talked to said they stopped working at noon today, to avoid the heat. Biser says they work til evening, and sometimes even put up floodlights to get the job done, heat or not.

And, we're talking about people coping but it's tough on animals too. Yes, they can go outside, but make sure they have shade, and water. Never, ever leave them in a car, even for a few minutes in this heat.

Are you worried about the heat? Syracuse University has put out a heat advisory with tips to students (in un-air conditioned dorms) to keep cool. Here's the advice:

When you can't sweat enough to cool your body, you might get a heat illness. Heat illness may cause you to feel tired; to have muscles that are weak, tired or cramping; and to have dizziness, nausea, vomiting or headache. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sunstroke are different heat illnesses. They occur when your body isn't able to keep itself cool enough.

How can I avoid getting a heat illness?

To decrease your risk of heat illness, follow these tips:

  • Stay in air conditioning if possible.

  • Drink lots of water before, during and after any outdoor activity.

  • Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.

  • Increase the amount of time you spend outdoors every day little by little.

  • Take a lot of rest breaks while outdoors in hot weather.

  • Avoid direct sunlight and stay in the shade when you can.

  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, open-weave clothes.

  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.

  • NEVER leave anyoneâ??a person or animalâ??in a closed, parked vehicle.

Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on infants and young children; people aged 65 or older; people who have a mental illness; and those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure. Individuals with chronic respiratory illnesses, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, may find that their conditions worsen during periods of high heat and humidity.

What should I do if I feel sick in the heat?

If you get symptoms of heat illness, such as cramps, nausea, headache or vomiting, take off as much clothing as possible and wet yourself with cool or lukewarm water. Drink some fluids. Stay in the shade or in air conditioning. You should see a doctor right away if you become confused, lose consciousness, vomit frequently, stop sweating or stop urinating.