A sweltering summer in Philadelphia: Tips for keeping cool and walking in the heat

According to the National Weather Service, excessive heat is the deadliest type of weather in the United States.  Each year, it kills more people than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and lightning combined.  The elderly, infants, and those with physical and mental ailments are at especially high risk for the consequences of overexposure to heat.

Taking precautionary measures against heat exhaustion and heat stroke is especially important this summer, because it’s definitely a hot one.  Philadelphia is now experiencing the fourth heat wave of the season, and there have been nine heat-related deaths in the city as of July 13th.  We’ve also seen lower-than-normal levels of rainfall.  If you’ve recently been walking around the city or other highly developed areas (where buildings and pavement trap the heat), you’ve experienced  these oppressive weather conditions firsthand.  Here are some helpful tips for safe walking and staying cool in the summer heat:

  • Drink water!
    • When you sweat, your body loses lots of fluids, so replenishing them with plenty of water is your number 1 defense against heat stress.  Avoid beverages that contain alcohol or high amounts of sugar; these do not actually hydrate you.
  • Wear light colored clothing, a hat, and sunscreen.
    • Light clothing reflects the sun.  Also, lightweight fabrics are better because heavier clothing interferes with your body’s natural ability to cool itself.
  • Seek out air conditioning!
    • If your home does not have air conditioning, walk to a public place that does, such as a library. If you are walking through Center City, figure out what air-conditioned commercial buildings can serve as indoor “shortcuts” along your route.
  • Avoid the hottest part of the day!
    • If you are able to, walk and schedule other outdoor exercise in the morning or evening hours, when it’s cooler outside.
  • Know the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
    • Heat stroke is a severe effect of overexposure to the sun, and it can have permanent health consequences if not treated in time.  Heat exhaustion is less serious and can be caused by sustained heat exposure.  For more information on heat-related health emergencies and what to do in case they occur, please see the CDC’s guide on these conditions on this webpage.
  • Use common sense!
    • Take a break from walking and sit in the shade if you begin to feel exhausted.
    • Eat light foods and avoid hot beverages.
    • Dress children in cool clothing (also, make sure never to leave them in a parked car, where interior temperatures quickly rise to unsafe levels, sometimes well over 100 degrees!).
    • Make sure pets have plenty of water.

Follow these tips, but be smart about the heat! If it’s too hot to walk, stay inside or take SEPTA.

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