By: Dr. Kimberly Chang, Asian Health Services
Summer is well underway in California with counties across the state feeling the effects of extreme heat this past week and even hotter temperatures expected in the weeks to come. As a physician, community advocate and Californian, extreme heat events are highly concerning since I know that our most vulnerable Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) populations are at higher health risks during extreme heat conditions.
Despite the limited data on the health risks to the AAPI community due to extreme heat conditions, the impact extreme heat can have on our health isn’t surprising. We also know that it disproportionally impacts our most vulnerable populations, like those with medical conditions, older people, pregnant women, young children and individuals who primarily work outdoors.
This is critically important to the AAPI community since farming and working outdoors is a common practice. For instance, according to the US Department of Agriculture, there are more than 4,600 Asian operated-farms in California with Fresno County, one of the counties in the state most affected by extreme heat, home to approximately 800 of those farms. In fact, the counties in California most affected by extreme heat boasts large AAPI communities with data estimating 661,666 AAPIs at risk of suffering from extreme heat, including the 96,504 people ages 65 and older and the 124,619 children who are ages 14 and under.
While many may consider hot weather a normal part of summer, it is critically important to understand the risks extreme heat conditions can create and take precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones. California is going to continue to get hotter as summer continues. We must be prepared for hot weather and look out for one another during extreme heat events.
Here are my top tips families can use to prepare for extreme heat:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. I recommend drinking at least two glasses, or 16 ounces, of water every hour to stay hydrated. While many Asians prefer to drink hot water, drinking room temperature water during the warmer part of the day can help you stay cool. Plain water is best, although options like coconut water are better than sugar sweetened beverages like soda or sports drinks. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as those beverages can dehydrate you further.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing to help your body stay cool. Consider wearing the lightweight, breathable fabrics commonly used in your cultural attire during warmer months to stay comfortable during extreme weather.
- Find ways to stay cool. Know where your local cooling center is located and where to find transportation to beat the heat if staying home is not an option. Setting your A/C to 75-80 degrees can ward off the hottest temperatures and help you stay cool. If air conditioning isn’t available, take extra precautions. The use of fans can help mitigate some heat, but high temperatures without humidity can make fans ineffective in properly cooling your body. Make sure your windows have blinds, or have extra towels, blankets, and sheets on hand to create a darker environment.
- Avoid being outside in the direct heat for long periods of time, especially during peak hours when temperatures are the highest and the sun’s rays are strongest, between 10am and 4pm.
- Check on family and friends, especially vulnerable individuals. Regularly check on older family members, friends, or neighbors to ensure they are staying cool and healthy during extreme heat.
- Never leave children or pets in parked vehicles. It may be a quick errand like stopping at a store for milk, but it is not worth the risk. Temperatures inside a parked car can quickly rise to dangerous levels within minutes, even with the windows cracked open, creating a very unhealthy and potentially deadly situation. I cannot stress this enough, don’t do it.
Remember, extreme heat conditions can turn deadly and create serious risks for anyone and vulnerable people. By staying informed, taking precautions, and looking out for one another, we can mitigate the risks and keep ourselves and our families safer this summer.
Learn more about ways to protect yourself and others at HeatReadyCA.com.