Corcoran has had a temperate month of May, but the Kings County Department of Public Health is reminding folks that the hot summer months are just days away. People living in Kings County are very familiar with the San Joaquin Valley’s typical hot, dry summer weather and most people adapt to the heat within a couple of weeks.
The proliferation of air conditioning in homes, businesses, schools and vehicles has certainly made the heat much more bearable than what previous generations had to endure. The National Weather Service climate prediction for the next three months expects temperatures to be higher than normal.
High temperatures of 100 degrees to 104 degrees Farenheit are common here and rarely cause health problems, especially given the usual low humidity in the Valley. However, extreme heat with temperatures much above 105 degrees can be threatening. Kings County Health Office Dr. Michael MacLean stated that in the last 10 years, heat waves have resulted in more weather-related fatalities in the U.S. annually than any other natural disaster (about 400 deaths per year).
Global climate change may increase the risk to human health due to heat. July of 2006 was the second hottest July on record. The National Weather Service reported the temperature exceeded 110 in Hanford on four consecutive days that month. That July heat wave resulted in the deaths of at least 140 people in California. Dr. MacLean emphasized that these deaths could have been prevented.
Kings County’s extreme heat emergency plan, located at http://www.countyofkings.com/home/showdocument?id=896 includes a list of cool places in each community—air conditioned places willing to accept people trying to avoid extreme heat. It includes guidelines for Kings County to declare a local heat emergency when daytime temperatures are predicted to exceed 105 degrees Farenheit for at least two days and not drop below 80 degrees at night. When activitated, the plan will inform residents about locations of cool places they can go to and recommend curltailment of outdoor activities when possible.
Dr. MacLean pointed out some people are especially susceptible to the effects of heat, including people over 65 years of age, very young children less than a year old, people doing outside work or participating in outdoor sports, overweight people and people with certain medical conditions or who are taking certain medications. Dr. MacLean cautions residents to be alert to early signs of heat illness such as nausea or lightheadedness. If noted, seek a cool place out of the sun and drink water—not iced coffee, ice tea, cola or liquor.
“Early heat injury responds well to these measures. It is always better to recognize the signs and take action early,” said Dr. MacLean.
To avoid heat-related illness during extreme heat waves, individuals are urged to take the following precautions:
–Use the air conditioner at least four hours a day or visit air conditioned buildings;
–Take cool showers;
–Run fans with a mist;
–Open windows for a few hours in the evening when the temperature cools down;
–Drink water at least three or four quarts per day. Don’t rely on your thirst to tell you when to drink;
–Wear cool, light-colored clothing;
–Go for a swim;
–Ask your health care provider if your medications or health conditions increase your risk to excessive heat.
Kings County cool places include all county libraries, including the Corcoran branch library.