"Massage the Cramp" and Other Warm-Weather Tips

You probably noticed it was getting warm outside, and so have officials with the City of Phoenix.

According to a lengthy news release and online guide to surviving the annual heat wave, municipal workers are training senior citizens and passing out water to the homeless. They also want you to stay safe, cool and hydrated. If you've lived in the Sonoran Desert for at least one year, you know the drill. And if you've lived here for decades, like us, you know these city advisories can sound a tad silly to a bunch of sun-baked desert rats.

The Human Services Department is educating senior citizens at its 15 senior centers on the dangers of heat exposure and how to recognize heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps.The department also makes sure that caseworkers who come in contact with the elderly are able to advise seniors about the effects of heat and how to protect themselves during the summer.

Is it that caseworkers don't understand "the effects of heat" on the elderly, or just that they want to leave the thermostat set at 88 to save money?

"The best advice we can give to residents is to stay hydrated, especially when you go outside during the day. And please keep a special eye on your neighbors, particularly children and the elderly," said Mayor Phil Gordon.

Yeah. But don't keep too special of an eye on them, or your neighbors might call the police.

Through the city's annual Summer Respite Program, the public is asked to donate unopened water bottles, sunscreen, new underwear, white socks, white T-shirts, insect repellent and prepackaged snack items that will be distributed to the homeless by experienced homeless outreach teams. Tax-deductible donations may be delivered to the city's three Family Services Centers:

*Travis L. Williams, 4732 S. Central Ave., 602-534-4732 *John F. Long, 3454 N. 51st Ave., 602-262-6510 *Sunnyslope, 914 W. Hatcher Road, 602-495-5229

The centers are open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday.

This seems like a great program. But... "insect repellent?" Seems like a luxury for homeless people. It doesn't work for scorpions and killer bees, anyway.

Drink extra fluids, but avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can cause dehydration.

Absurd. There is nothing in this universe like an icy cold beer on a sizzling Phoenix day. Summer and booze go together. You just have to be sure and also drink a lot of water or other non-alcoholic drinks.

The best ways to prevent a sun stress emergency are:

*Drink before you're thirsty and drink often. *Eat a healthy diet. *Wear a hat or cap, keep the neck covered and wear loose fitting clothing.

Can you guess which one of these three easy tips actually takes most people a lifetime to master?

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that occur when the body loses electrolytes during profuse sweating or when inadequate electrolytes are taken into the body. They usually begin in the arms, legs or abdomen and often precede heat exhaustion. Treatment for heat cramps is to rest in the shade, get near a fan, spray with water and massage the cramp.

Another great summer activity: Faking a good heat cramp.

The emergency care of heatstroke is to cool the body as quickly as possible. One of the best methods for cooling the body during a heat emergency is to wrap the patient in cool, wet sheets.

Heat stroke is very serious and can leave survivors with brain impairment. Cool, wet sheets can also sometimes follow the fake heat cramp.

Take advantage of free air conditioning! Visit shopping malls, movie theaters or the library to escape the heat for a few hours.

Movie theater air conditioning is only free after you "hop" into the second movie.

Having the windows down even one inch causes only a slight temperature drop.

That's because the air conditioning will be on when someone with a coat-hanger steals the car.

Additional information: Try Google.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.