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Avoid problems in the oppressive heat

North Alabama is already sweltering under a heat wave that may push temperatures into triple digits this week.

High temperatures and oppressive humidity are nothing new to Madison-area residents, but we typically look for the triple-digit days to settle in during the dog days of summer — August. The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory through Friday. NWS predicts a high temperature of around 100 today and tomorrow, and a heat index of 103 to 112.

Since the sweltering heat has already arrived, it’s a good time to refresh our memories on strategies to help get through these hot days.

First and foremost, be mindful of elderly family members, friends and relatives, ensuring that they have the proper equipment to keep cool and that it’s in good working order. Check on them daily.

Make sure your outdoor pets have plenty of fresh water to drink and somewhere shady to rest. Better yet, bring them inside in the heat of the day.

And do not leave your children or your pet locked inside a vehicle for even a few minutes. Even when windows are cracked, the inside of a vehicle can heat up to life-threatening temperatures in a matter of minutes.

Those who work outdoors, as well as children who play outdoors, should stay hydrated, wear sunscreen and limit the amount of time they spend in open sun. Take frequent breaks, and drink plenty of water. Wear a hat.

Give at least some thought to how much demand you’re placing on the available supply of electricity.

Most of the time for most people, electricity gets little thought. Flick a switch and it’s there, powering lights, ovens, air conditioning. During this period of extreme heat, and particularly during the peak cooling hours from 3 to 9 p.m., our abundant power supply can become strained.

So, it makes sense to conserve. You can do that by:

• Keeping home blinds and shades drawn to block the sun.

• Keeping the house a bit warmer when no one is home, using a programmable thermostat if you have one.

• Don’t run heat-generating appliances, such as stoves and dishwashers, during the hottest part of the day.

• Keep exterior doors closed as much as possible.

Lastly, and most importantly, know the signs of heat-related illnesses and be prepared to react when you experience them, or see someone else experiencing them.

• Heat cramps involve heavy sweating with muscle pain or spasms.

If you are experiencing heat cramps, stop your physical activity and move to a cool place. Drink water or a sports drink and wait for cramps to go away before doing any more physical activity. Get medical help if your cramping lasts for more than an hour.

• Heat exhaustion may involve heavy sweating with cold, pale and clammy skin, fast or weak pulses, nausea or vomiting, tiredness or weakness and dizziness/headache/passing out.

If you are experiencing heat exhaustion, move to a cool place, loosen your clothes, sip water and use cool, wet cloths on your body. If you are throwing up, or your symptoms last longer than an hour, get medical help.

• Heat stroke, which can be lethal without immediate intervention, may involve high body temperature (104 or higher), hot red dry or damp skin, fast, strong pulses, headaches or dizziness, or nausea, confusion or passing out.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency, so call 911 right away. Move the person to a cooler place. Do not give the person anything to drink, but try to lower their temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath.

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