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Local News

Goodbye June Gloom, Hello Heat Wave

With a heat alert in effect for the weekend, local officials offer a few health and safety reminders

The extended June gloom has dissipated and the heat is on in Santa Barbara.

A Phase II Heat Alert is in effect from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles through the weekend. Temperatures are expected to reach the upper-90s in inland areas of Santa Barbara County and the mid-80s along the coast, according to the National Weather Service.

The hot air may lift the spirits of residents in many coastal communities who have been shrouded by fog, but it also can elevate the likeliness of heat-related illnesses.

“As soon as the sun came out (Monday), attitudes changed and people were happy, but sun safety fell off their mind,” said Rich Hanna, senior recreation supervisor for the City of Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department, who oversees aquatic activities and summer youth camps. “All it usually takes is that first day of mild sunburn that snaps them back into it.”

One demographic most susceptible to the heat are infants and young children. Hanna encourages parents to send children to the camps and other activities with enough water, sunscreen and protective clothing to prevent dehydration and getting burned. He added that even with minimal sunlight and the right clothing, burns can occur.

“You can get equally as sunburned on a cloudy day and you can be burned through clothing, like white T-shirts, especially when they get wet,” he said, adding that there are shirts that have built-in SPF protection.

Hanna said the most common occurrence he deals with is cramping, which is the first sign of any heat-related injury and dehydration. Other symptoms include dizziness, disorientation, change in skin color and dry mouth, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s Web site. Yet, many people don’t process these symptoms, said Susan Klein-Rothschild, the health department’s assistant deputy director.

“People don’t recognize that they have heat-related illness,” she said. “People think they are fine; that’s why checking on others is so important.”

To protect against heat-related illnesses, especially among the sick and elderly, the health department advises people to drink nonalcoholic or noncaffeinated fluids, wear lightweight clothing, and stay in shaded or air-conditioned areas; electric fans will not prevent heat stroke when temperatures are in the high-90s, according to its Web site.

Pets can suffer the deadly consequences of heat as well, especially when they overexert themselves, said Jan Glick, director of Santa Barbara County Animal Services.

“When it’s really hot, it’s inappropriate to go hiking with your pet because it could cause them heat prostration and could result in death,” she said. “It’s so sad when that happens.”

Lesley Vloomer, a volunteer with the Dog Adoption & Welfare Group, says it’s important to provide pets with water and shade, and never leave them in a car on a hot day because many don’t sweat like humans. Dogs require a cool ambient temperature to cool their bodies.

“A car can heat in the sun up to 100 degrees in two minutes,” she said. “Brain damage can happen very easily, and death can occur within 20 minutes.”

Human or animal, heat-related illness can be prevented. Yet, it still causes hundreds of deaths a year.

County Health Officer Dr. Takashi Wada said in a news release that heat causes about 400 deaths in the United States per year, more than all other natural disasters combined.

Noozhawk intern Alex Kacik is a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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