As we migrate into summer weather and high temperatures, it is a well know fact that extreme heat events have long threatened public health in many locations though the United States and the State of Utah. Deaths and injuries usually result from heat stroke, exhaustion, and dehydration, but also from other issues such as kidney disorders, heart disease, respiratory disease, and stroke. Heat waves are also associated with increased hospital admittance. In addition to our regular health issues, when we combine soring temperatures, low humidity, and current wildfires in the area, people are more prone to increased occurrences of shortness of breath, headache, hoarseness or noisy breathing, skin changes, eye irritation, decreased alertness, irritation to your respiratory tract or chest pain.
There are some basic precautionary steps we can take to better prepare ourselves for our summer adventures that can make our experiences more pleasant and safe. When planning outdoor events during extreme heat, situational awareness is paramount. You should keep track of your local weather to include the heat index. Hiking and outdoor activity requiring strenuous exercise is best done at the cooler times of the day, with continuous access to water and shade. In the warmer parts of the day, it is a good idea to find air conditioning, avoid strenuous activities, and wear light clothing that provides protection from the sun. Extreme heat can occur quickly and without warning. Older adults, children, or overweight individuals are at greater risk from extreme heat. We should all know the signs of heat-related illness and proper ways to respond. The most common heat-related illnesses are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (which can be fatal).
As we travel throughout the summer, it is very important that our vehicles be maintained well. It is common during the summer for vehicles to overheat just like people! Good preventative maintenance on our vehicle’s cooling systems (to include A/C) and fluids can go a long way in ensuring our summer trips are successful. In case of a vehicle break down it is an excellent idea to have some supplies with us in the vehicle that are geared towards summer weather. In addition to my vehicle’s spare tire (which I check for air), jack, and lug wrench, I usually make sure I include these items in my vehicles: (I usually put these in a plastic bin or in an old army duffle bag): Water (one gallon plus at least 1 bottle per person), phone charger, snacks (some type of high energy bars, unsalted nuts, or dried fruit), sunscreen and/or protective covering for your head and neck, reflective emergency blanket (can also be used for shade), flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries, small tool kit, jumper cables or portable battery charger that is fully charged, tire sealant, tire pressure gauge, tow strap, spare fuses, duct tape, and gloves. It is also a good idea to have a mapping tool available on your phone. My personal favorite phone app is Avenza Maps. This mapping application allows GPS tracking using offline mobile maps that you can download from the area you are traveling. It works great with or without cell signal.
I look at this summer vehicle kit the same way I view car insurance. It is better to have it and not need it, than to be without, especially somewhere austere like the San Rafael Swell (one of my favorite destinations) or in any remote area throughout Carbon, Emery, or Grand counties. These precautions and this simple kit provide me with peace of mind and helps me focus on spending time in the outdoors with my family. I hope you will all be safe and enjoy all that nature has to offer in Southeast Utah!
Eric Anderson, Emergency Preparedness Planner, Southeast Utah Health Department, firstname.lastname@example.org, 435-637-3671, seuhealth.com.