“Lord, there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues…”
– Howling Wolf
Except maybe fall. (So mark your calendar for October 20-21 for Desert Green at Texas Station. I can almost guarantee perfect weather by then!). But we can all take the heat, can’t we?
Well, maybe not. When I first started published STT almost 20 years ago, climate change was a whisper among a small group of scientists. Although various individuals had studied and suspected that perhaps changes in the weather could be influenced by human activity, it wasn’t until 2001 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a very cautious consensus that this might be “a thing.”
So it seems that it’s hotter and drier and our business revolves around working outside. With summer here, we all need to be vigilant about protecting ourselves – and our employees – from the ravages of the scorching sun.
Let’s start with sunscreen. According to the National Cancer Institute, the rate of new melanoma cases among American adults has tripled since the 1970s, from 7.9 per 100,000 people in 1975 to 24 per 100,000 in 2013. Just as alarming, the melanoma death rate for white American men, the highest risk group, has escalated sharply, from 2.6 deaths per 100,000 in 1975 to 4.6 in 2013 (the latest stats available).
I remember sitting at an early meeting of the Southern Nevada Arborists Group (SNAG) years ago and someone casually asked how many people there had skin cancers in the past. I was shocked (although I shouldn’t have been) that more than half the people there raised their hands.
First line of defense is clothing. Although it may seem intuitive to strip down when the temperatures sizzle, it’s actually better to cover up. As arborist and regular contributor Juan Barba said, “It’s better to simmer than to broil.”
Long sleeves, long pants and a hat are the best line of protection. Sunscreen should be applied liberally and regularly. Most people remember to slather it on at the start of the day, but it tends to lose its punch by lunchtime and should be reapplied.
It is also critical to check your skin thoroughly and regularly for any irregularities. Remember your “ABCDs” (and most recently, E): A: Asymmetrical shape. Melanomas are irregular. B: Border. Melanomas have irregular borders. C: Color. Look for multiple or uneven colors. D: Diameter. Bigger than a pencil eraser? Get it checked!
E: Evolution. If a mole changes, get it checked out.
Remember that melanomas can hide. Check between your shoulder blades and toes and behind your ears.
At press time, four people had died in Arizona as the result of the last heat wave. The striking aspect was that the deceased were all relatively young. They basically went out in the heat for recreational purposes.
Heat stroke symptoms include a throbbing headache, nausea or vomiting and a strong pulse. The victim does not sweat and may lose consciousness. Call 911 right away.
Heat exhaustion comes first. Symptoms include faintness or dizziness, excessive sweating, clammy skin, a weak pulse and muscle cramps. Get out of the heat, apply cool cloths or water to the skin and sip water and/or drinks with electrolytes or salt.
Excessive heat can be considered part of the Southwest lifestyle. But as climate change results in higher temperatures for longer periods of time, it’s critical that we protect ourselves and our employees. Stay safe and hydrated. Fall is right around the corner!