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Dog Days of Summer are Here

“Texas Weather is Ruff on “hosses and wemmin”

Bill Keltner

That is what an early pioneer Texas pioneer wrote to his friends back East—“This Texas weather is ruff on ‘hosses and wemmin’”—Well, he was right, but, the rough weather goes beyond those sufferers to include about everybody.

How is it going for you now with the heat and discomfort of the Dog Days of the summer of 2017? How about these daily, triple-digit temperatures and high humidity? Well, it is not over yet, partner; there is still some more on the way. But, how did it get to be called the “Dog Days” of summer? Well, it was this way:

Some 2,000 years ago, the Romans named a couple of weeks of the summer month of July, the “Canicula ( Latin for the Dog Star) This miserable time of year would sometimes extend into August. Nothing seems to have changed down to our days. They were called the “Dog Days” because those were days with unbearable, sizzling hot temperatures in the Roman capital that supposedly made dogs go bonkers from the heat–and by extension, everybody else too.

Did you know that the clever Romans in Caesar’s days sipped iced fruit drinks in Rome to cool off” Enterprising chaps would bring down snow from the tops of the tall mountains surrounding the Italian capital in their straw-insulated carts, and then sell the cool refreshments to thirsty, over-heated Romans, thus proving the old adage: There is nothing new under the sun.

So much for history: Let’s get serious. This matter of enduring and surviving triple-digit temperatures for weeks is no light matter–especially for the most vulnerable in our population–the very young and especially the elderly.

The older citizens should search out an air-conditioned environment somewhere and spend as much time there are possible. Not only for the comfort, but older folks are at increased risk for heat-related problems. The doctor is the one who can distinguish the differences. These problems can progress from heat cramps, to heat exhaustion to an out-and-out heat stroke. The latter is a life-threatening, medical emergency, requiring immediate attention and maybe a 9ll call.

Even if one is not exerting himself, he is still losing essential water through perspiration. My doctor and most doctors will say: “push water.” Make sure you stay hydrated—just the opposite of dehydration. Drink water without sugar, alcohol or caffeine. Ask your doctor about a safe guideline for fluid or salt intake for you. The traditional dictum most heard is “eight glasses of water a day” but check it out from your doctor.

In addition to plenty of intake of cool, pure water, older adults should cool down with cold showers, swimming or showers. Fans can be helpful, but when the temperatures rise above 100 degrees, fans just move around the hot air; they are not very effective.

Learn from the animals. Your cat and dog will look for some shade during the hottest part of the day. Look at a pasture in the afternoon with cows, horses and other animals—they are under whatever shade is available. Learn from the animals to take it easy during the hottest parts of the day (12:00 noon till 4:00pm)

Hey, friend, the grass can wait! We should be as smart as the animals.

These simple to follow guidelines apply to everyone during the Canicula of summer—especially the very young and the elderly. If you or someone displays signs of a heat-related illness, don’t ignore it. Watch the person closely. Signs include: a sudden feeling of extreme fatigue or weakness, a sudden chill even though you’re hot and sweating. The signs include dizziness, nausea headache and muscle pains or cramps. Vomiting and confusion can occur. If the symptoms progress or get worse, the next step is a call to the doctor or 9-1-1.

Had enough already? Just hang on, as there is more of it to come according to the weather prognosticators of the weather bureau. And one final word to the wise: Keep an eye on September as that is the peak month for tropical activity in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the North Atlantic.

Dog days are rough on cats, too.

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