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7:35 AM Wed, Sept. 26th

Beat the heat: stay out of parked cars, stay hydrated, stay cool, watch for snakes

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PRESCOTT - With summer temperatures in full force, local health and pet professionals want people aware of how best to beat the heat and avoid life-threatening exposures.

All reinforce it is never acceptable to leave pets, children, or an aging senior citizen, inside a locked car during the hot summer months. Stories across the nation in recent years have chronicled fatal tragedies for children and pets, even unknowingly, left inside a car-turned-oven.

Car temperatures can climb to as high as 160 degrees "in nothing flat," advised Robert Barth, director of emergency services at Yavapai Regional Medical Center.

The hospital's east and west campuses have seen only a limited number of heat-related illnesses this summer, but Barth advises constant vigilance.

Older adults may not feel thirsty even when their body requires hydration, Barth said. So adults need to sip small amounts of water throughout the day, he said.

For those who must be outdoors, Barth recommended interchanging water with electrolyte drinks, such as Gatorade. They should stay in the shade as much as possible, and wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn and skin cancer, he said.

On really hot days, Yavapai County Health Department Public Affairs Officer David McAtee said the best advice is simply to stay indoors. If one's home does not have air conditioning, McAtee suggested a trip to the shopping mall, the public library or some other public facility where they can escape the heat of the day.

McAtee emphasized the need for people to be good neighbors, particularly if one lives near someone who is elderly or homebound. A friendly, daily check-in may avoid a serious health threat, he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states most heat-related deaths occur in those who are 65 and older. Warning signs of a heat-related illness include dizziness, headache, chest pains, breathing difficulties and a rapid heartbeat, according to CDC reports.

For the four-legged population, Yavapai Humane Society Marketing and Communication Outreach Director Elisabeth Haugan said the organization annually offers pet owners reminders about the impact of high temperatures on animals, especially on car rides.

"Leaving the windows cracked has little effect. Pets are at even further risk because they cannot sweat to cool themselves off, as we people do. With only hot air to breathe, any living being can quickly suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke," the release said.

In Arizona, it is illegal for an animal to be left inside a vehicle during excessive heat or cold, the release said. Police and animal control officers are authorized to break into a vehicle to release an endangered animal, and the owner can be subject to arrest, the release said.

Pets, too, can become overheated at home, and to lower an animal's temperature an owner should move them out of the heat and apply cool compresses to the head, neck and chest. Small sips of water should be offered. If a pet exhibits excessive panting, dizziness, glazed eyes or vomiting, owners should seek immediate medical attention, the release said.

For early riser nature lovers, Barth offered this reminder: people aren't the only ones who like to stretch and exercise in the cool of the day.

"Keep your eye out for rattlesnakes, and all of our other friends of the forest," Barth said.

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter@HutsonNanci Reach her at 928-445-3333 Ext. 2041 or 928-642-6809.