It’s an early summer heat wave in our area this summer with the temperature a full ten degrees above average and high humidity. The current hot spell comes complete with dry ground, sultry heat and bugs. While this may mean paying closer attention than we are used to in June to how the heat is affecting us, it’s not all bad news.
“If we’re going to have hot, dry weather, this is the best time for it,” said Vance Haugen, the Crawford County UW-Extension agricultural agent. “This is when it will do the most good and least damage for the agronomic crops – corn, soybeans, wheat and oats.”
Early growth handles these conditions best, according to Haugen. It’s when a plant is producing its fruit that it becomes a challenge. So for the orchards, this is less than ideal.
“This weather is hard on the berries, but as long as we get rain in the next week or 10 days, the apples will do all right,” Haugen said. “Subsoil moisture is fairly low, so even a heavy dew helps as the apples flesh out. All moisture is good moisture unless you’re talking eight inches of rain in a few hours.”
The only serious downside for agriculture right now may be the pests, which Haugen attributes to the early spring rather than the current heat wave.
“The pest situation is abnormal,” Haugen said. “Infestations are certainly earlier and heavier than usual.”
It’s not just row crops that benefit from the hot, dry conditions. A quick trip to the pool and you know where most of the kids are, occupied and cool, just how parents want them to be.
“It’s been really crowded except for the couple of cool days last week,” said Jen Klekamp, manager of the Gays Mills Pool. “And with lessons started, it will only get busier.”
Klekamp noted that the pool has been seeing heavy use for the beginning season.
Cooling off in water is one of the recommended ways of dealing with heat. Just remember the sunblock and often!
The hot muggy weather has some definite down sides for humans and other animals. It increases health risks, particularly for infants and young children, the elderly, the overweight, physically ill, those on medications affected by heat, and those who overexert.
Gundersen Lutheran Trauma and Injury Prevention Coordinator Kim Lombard recommended some common sense precautions for dealing with the heat.
• Air conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. Using fans to circulate air and to blow warm air out during the hottest times of the day help as well. During periods of extreme heat, spend time in locations with air conditioning such as your home, movie theatres or libraries.
• Taking a cool shower or bath will help your body cool off.
• Avoid using the stove during periods of extreme heat. Try eating sandwiches, fresh fruits, vegetables and salads.
• Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar-these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. If you are on a fluid restriction, it is important to check with your healthcare provider regarding the amount of fluids you should consume during hot weather. If you are on a sodium restriction, be mindful of sports drinks as they tend to have a high sodium level.
• Pace yourself. If you must be outdoors, take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned building.
• Apply sunscreen frequently (every two-three hours) and look for a brand with an SPF of at least 30 and has UVA, UVB and broad spectrum protection. Wear light-colored clothing, and a wide-brim hat.
It’s important to know when the heat is having a negative effect on you. Crawford County Public Health Director Gloria Wall describes heat exhaustion as including heavy sweating, extreme weakness or fatigue, dizziness or confusion, nausea, clammy and moist skin, a pale or flushed complexion, muscle cramps, an elevated body temperature, and/or fast and shallow breathing.
If a person appears to be suffering from heat exhaustion, Wall recommends having them rest in a cool, shaded or air-conditioned area and have them drink plenty of water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages. You can also have them take a cool shower or sponge bath to lower their temperature.