Bring the Heat

Being prepared for the erratic weather patterns Mother Nature often presents can be a challenge, especially during summer months. As far as weather is concerned, this year in Frisco (and throughout Texas) has been a testament to the unpredictable trends. 

Summertime provides us with great freedom. Whether it is participating in kids’ sports and activities or just going for a jog through the neighborhood, chances are, people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds have something extravagant or exciting planned for the coming weeks. With this great summertime freedom comes power, and, as they say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” 

In addition to taking time for pool parties, vacations and outdoor fun, it is also important to plan for the health of our loved ones, pets, babies and seniors.

Caution for Parents

A total of 836 children have died from heatstroke across the country after being left in hot cars over the last 17 years, 24 percent of which occurred in employer parking lots while the parent or caregiver was at work. And, sadly, Texas has reached the top of the list. According to kidsandcars.org, Texas is No. 1 for hot car deaths in children throughout the U.S. From 1990 to 2017, there were 120 child vehicular heatstroke fatalities in Texas involving children ages 14 and under. As per the National Safety Council, in 2018 alone, 52 children died in hot cars. It was the deadliest year on record in the past 20 years. 

Infants and toddlers require additional summertime care. They always need to be protected from direct sunlight, and since young infants cannot cool themselves or guard themselves as adults do, the risk of overheating and heat-related illness unfolds at an alarming pace during scorching months. Pediatric research suggests that infants less than six months old should be shielded from sunlight as their skin contains too little melanin, the pigment that provides protection from sun. And, most sunscreen products are equally as harmful and can hurt their tender skin, which could cause permanent damage. Preventive measures of shades, clothes and hats are simple and offer the best means of protection. Older kids can benefit significantly from sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 25+.

Prickly heat is another contributing factor towards skin-related issues for infants. Prickly heat is an itchy rash of small, raised red spots that cause a stinging sensation. Infants and children are at greater risk of getting prickly heat because their sweat glands are not fully-developed. Creams and lotions rich in zinc and castor oil are good lines of defense to protect the skin, specifically in the genital areas and around the neck, along with the periodic change of clothes and frequent wash cloth baths.

In addition to the sun, parents should be mindful of insects and critters that may be present in an area. Mosquito or tick bites can be extremely harmful, but babies should never wear insect repellant, which often means they should not be outside at all in some areas. Unfortunately, here in North Texas, it is also important to always be on the lookout for potentially harmful snakes and spiders.

Combatting dehydration and heat stroke are some of the most important measures parents should consider. A rising body temperature, heavy sweating, loss of appetite, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, sleepiness, dry mouth and eyes and muscle cramps are telltale signs parents should look out for. 

Senior Safety

Staying hydrated and cool is sometimes not enough. The older generations of the Frisco population need extra attention and care during warm months. Heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses are always a possibility, so know the forecast, dress appropriately and do not stay in the sun or heat for too long.

If you are a caregiver, be sure your loved one is wearing adequate eye protection. Knowing all of the medications and potential heat-related side effects of medications seniors may be taking is vital, since some medications make people more sensitive to the sun.

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Along with infants and our elderly population, one should not forget the effect of heat on another set of loved ones we cherish in our lives daily – our pets. Dogs, cats and other creatures significantly contribute love and happiness to Frisco families. 

While most cats have a sheltered, in-home habitat style of living, dogs are different. Dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans, but through their foot pads and nose. This is not enough for them to release excessive body heat. Dogs primarily release heat by panting, a method that exchanges hot and cool air. Unfortunately, this is not a very efficient process, especially when the body temperature is very high. If a dog cannot expel heat, the internal body temperature begins to rise. Typically, a 78-degree day could actually translate to a 98-106-degree experience for dogs. Damage to the body’s cellular system and organs may become irreversible once the dog’s temperature reaches 106 degrees. Too many dogs succumb to heat stroke that could have been avoided. “One of the biggest concerns and reports we get are from pet owners who have left their loved ones in the car while running errands or shopping,” says Stephen Lerner, the Animal Services Supervisor at Frisco Animal Services. “We typically get about 20 calls per week during the hot months of summer, largely due to the greenhouse effect, especially when pets are left in a vehicle, even with windows partially rolled down.”

Apart from heat stroke and dehydration, there is another major concern pet owners seldom realize, which includes the infestation of fleas, ticks and mosquitoes during the summer months. There are a myriad of cost-effective products residents can use to ensure prevention or cure of these infestations for longevity of their beloved pets. 

Do not forget! Pavement is often extremely hot, having been scorched by the sun all day. This can result in significant damage to a pet’s tender paws. Did you know pets can get sunburned? Extended exposure to sunlight easily causes skin-related issues for pets. 

Fresh drinking water and proper shelter are an absolute necessity. It is easy to let the water bowl run dry but pay close attention during warm months. Your dog might love to joyfully jump in the pool to cool off, but research suggests that as soon as they do, they can go into shock due to the temperature differential. Most pets cannot figure out how to get out after they have jumped in, which can result in drowning. “Open windows pose a threat as well, as pets could figure out how to get through the screen doors,” Mr. Lerner adds. 

When celebrating holidays like Fourth of July, fireworks present a challenge to most pet owners and contribute a significant amount of stress to pets. They often tremble, drool excessively, refuse to eat food and experience a lack of bowel control. These issues often prompt them to hide or run away from the house. “July 5 is one of the biggest days we receive lost pet reports,” Mr. Lerner shares. These animals are seeking refuge from high-frequency noise and turmoil, both sonic and visual, that we tend to take for granted. 

Heat exhaustion for all age groups of both people and pets can begin suddenly or over time, usually after working or playing in the heat, perspiring heavily or being dehydrated. Here in Frisco, if faced with a heat-related emergency, residents should call 911. These types of emergencies can cause irreversible damage to the brain and internal organs. Play safe, Frisco!

Vikram Venneti is a business leader, technology evangelist, tree hugger and food connoisseur. He loves to run and hike and is a dad with a penchant for writing.

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