How to Deal with the Next Heat Wave

by Alisha Jacobs 

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program class at People for Community Recovery, a not-for-profit organization based in the Altgeld Gardens public housing development.

This July, Chicago battled extreme heat. But what exactly is a heat wave? A heat wave is caused when a large mass of hot air stays over an area. Chicago hasn’t had a heat wave advisory since 1996, when there were about 750 heat-related deaths over a period of 5 days. There are heat warnings in over 36 states, so we’re not alone. Most places have reached triple digits repeatedly, according to ABC news. The extreme heat left over 150 million people around the country trying to find relief in any place possible.

Most people don’t know that elevated temperatures are a public health threat that leads to a considerable number of deaths. Every year a lot of people are hospitalized or die due to exposure to high temperatures. An average of 400 deaths are annually counted as heat-related in people who are 65 years and older. Elderly people should make sure their temperature doesn’t rise above 102 degrees, because the condition can quickly lead to heat stroke, according to USA Today. We have to make sure we keep an eye on elderly family members and friends. Seniors are more vulnerable to the heat because their body does not contain as much water as young people.

When we’re hot, we wear less clothing than usual, such as “daisy duke” shorts, flip flops, tank tops and swim suits. April Fields, a 30-year-old woman from Atlgeld Gardens, told Residents’ Journal, “The way I keep cool is by staying indoors with the air conditioner, drinking lots of water, and wearing fewer clothes. I have water fights; I wear hats, and use umbrellas to block the sun.” Another way residents living in Altgeld are staying cool is going swimming and playing in water using water hoses. Eight-year-old Nasir Choyce, also a resident of Atlgeld, told RJ he keeps cool by “going swimming, playing in sprinklers at the park, staying in the shade, drinking lots of water. I stay in a house that has an air conditioner, and I went to a hotel swimming pool.”

Not only are people suffering and vulnerable to the extreme temperatures, but animals are too. People have to find ways to keep their pets cool. Please remember not to leave your pet in the car or outside without shade, which is the leading way animals die. Tips to keep your pets cool: If your pet is outside, make sure they have access to shade, keep them hydrated and give them cool baths. Hot feet alert: your pets’ feet can be burned while walking on the pavement or tar. Check their feet for redness or pain.

Nearly two dozen people died as the heat wave moved east of Illinois. Don’t take this lightly. Many people suffered from heat exhaustion just from walking down the street. Tips to beat the heat: Stay hydrated in an air-conditioned area, keep sunscreen on the skin, take cool baths, keep electricity off (lights, microwaves, computers, etc.), avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages, dress lightly, and do not eat large meals. A meteorologist on WGN-TV said, “This weather will last longer and get hotter. So we have to learn to adjust to the heat without problems. With some forethought and planning we can keep ourselves cool and avoid the heat-related problems. Don’t let the heat beat you, beat the heat.”

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