Keep your cool: What not to do when it's hot

Consumer Reports News: July 06, 2010 02:15 PM

Hot enough for you? In the eastern half of the country, the answer is a definitive yes. Temperatures are rising and so are hot weather risks. Here are some things to think about as you wipe the sweat from your brow.

Hot cars
Recent statistics from SafeKids USA show that of the approximately 445 hyperthermia fatalities to children in the U.S. from 1998-2009 more than half (51 percent) were of children forgotten in a vehicle. Our Car blog recommends:

  • Never leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle.
  • Check the car to make sure that all occupants leave the vehicle or are carried out when unloading.
  • If you lock the door with a key, rather than with a remote, it would force that one last look in the car before leaving it.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a reminder of a child in the backseat.
  • Place something in the backseat that you need when you get out.
  • Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up.

Heat-related illness
Hundreds of people die each year from the effects of extreme heat, which include heat stroke, heat fatigue, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after exercising in the heat), heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Our Health blog advises:

  • Check the weather
  • Stay indoors
  • Dress appropriately
  • Drink enough fluids
  • Skip the exercise
  • Take a cool shower
Hot playgrounds
Temperatures can spike much higher on playground equipment and surfaces—sometimes up to 140 degrees or more. At that heat, a child can get badly hurt in just a few seconds, suffering second and third degree burns. Parents should check for hot surfaces on metal playground equipment before allowing young children to play on it. A good method is to use the back of your hand, as we advised earlier.

Soft-sided pools
Large inflatable pools can hold thousands of gallons of water and often lack the surrounding layers of protection—gates, fences, removable ladders—required to enhance pool safety. In addition, the soft sides make it all too easy for a curious toddler to topple in. Advice we've given before bears repeating:
  • If you have a small inflatable pool, always empty it and turn it upside down when not in use.
  • If your kids are ready for a larger pool, choose one with hard sides and rigid supports.
  • Isolate the pool with gates, fences and removable ladders.
  • Never leave your child unattended.
Power outages
In the event of a blackout or brownout, be mindful of generator risks. Generators can cause carbon-monoxide (CO) poisoning, fire and electrocution. CO poisoning is especially insidious, since it can happen quickly with little warning. Never operate a generator indoors or in any enclosed or partially enclosed area-even if you think you can adequately ventilate the space. In addition:
  • Keep generators away from windows, doors, air conditioners and vents.
  • Maintain working carbon-monoxide detectors throughout your home.
  • Properly store and handle gasoline.
  • Never refuel the generator while it's running or the engine is hot.
  • Be sure the generator is properly grounded.
  • Use extreme caution around wet electrical cords.
Do scream ... for ice cream
If you can't beat the heat, how about some ice cream? Our trained tasters recently tried 13 vanillas and 11 chocolates, still the nation's favorite flavors, that contained varying amounts of fat. Seven rated excellent, and six of those were Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry's; the seventh was Archer Farms Belgian Chocolate from Target. Get some quick, before it melts.

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