Heat precautions should be high priority

Special to the Kansan

MANHATTAN, Kan. – It may not quite yet be the summer’s Dog Days, but it’s getting plenty hot and humid across most of Kansas.

Hot enough, in fact, that assistant state climatologist Mary Knapp says most of us need to be deliberate about protecting ourselves from heat’s ill effects.

“Keep in mind that you want to start hydrating throughout the day,” said Knapp, who works at Kansas State University. “Be sure you have water available throughout the day and continue to drink as needed. Once you feel thirsty, you’re actually well on your way to dehydration.”

It’s a good idea to hydrate well the night before a planned activity, Knapp said.

“When you’re getting ready for an afternoon boating or biking, make sure that you’ve hydrated yourself through the night and into the morning before you start your outdoor activities,” she said.

Through the early part of June, average temperatures in Kansas have been as much as 12 degrees above normal, according to Knapp. The outlook for the rest of June is for above normal temperatures, while the summer (June-August) outlook issued on May 21 favors cooler than normal temperatures. The summer outlook will be updated later this month, she said.

Knapp said people of all ages need to be aware of the signs of heat stress.

“You might start sweating profusely, or become dizzy and uncomfortable,” she said. “Or, you might get heat cramps where your muscles start cramping up, which is a more severe indication of heat stress. The real dangerous point is if you stop sweating because it’s a sign that your system is completely overloaded. At that point, you need emergency attention.”

Knapp also suggests picking a sunscreen with the highest sun protection factor (SPF) available when planning outdoors activities.

“Be sure that you apply sunscreen before you go out so that your skin has time to absorb it and develop the protective layer that you’re interested in,” she said. “It’s also a good idea to repeat the application throughout the day, because it will wear off. Preventing sunburn will have the added benefit of allowing your body to better respond to the hotter temperatures.”

Knapp said it’s always a good idea to be aware of local weather forecasts, not only for heat warnings, but also to be aware of severe thunderstorms, lightning or tornado warnings.