Protect yourself from desert’s excessive heat

It’s Independence Day, so let me begin by expressing gratitude to our Founding Fathers for their sacrifice and willingness to risk, and in some cases lose, all they had to create a country where personal freedom is paramount and where we each have the opportunity to make something of ourselves. Let me also thank those who have risked and, in many cases, lost their lives to maintain those freedoms for the rest of us.

Today is a day of celebration, and for many of us that means spending the day outside. Some will choose to stay close to home and have a barbecue in the local park, while others will opt to spend the day in the Spring Mountain Range or at Lake Mead or Lake Mohave. Whatever you choose, be mindful of the excessive heat and adjust your plans accordingly.

Don’t underestimate the dangers of summer temperatures, especially those considered to be excessive. According to the American Red Cross, “In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods.”

While preparing for your celebration activities, consider factors such as the age and health of those with you. Children, the elderly and people with serious medical conditions are at the greatest risk of succumbing to heat-related illness. However, don’t believe for a minute that you have nothing to worry about simply because you are young and in great physical condition. People who fit into the latter category sometimes overdo it because they think they have nothing to fear.

Although it may seem obvious, some people forget that one of the keys to preventing heat-related medical issues is drinking plenty of water. This is true even if you will be in and out of the water. While the water can help you cool down on the outside, drinking water is essential to cooling you down from the inside. Beer or other alcoholic beverages don’t count. The alcohol will displace the water in your system and lead to dehydration. Sugary drinks also can be detrimental.

Keep in mind that if you will be boating, that it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol. The legal limit is the same as when operating a vehicle. Anyone found to be operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher gets free room and board in an air-conditioned cell at the Clark County Detention Center.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also warns that anyone who has been limited by their doctor in regards to the amount of fluid they drink should ask how much they should drink when the weather is hot.

Another simple but important step to preventing heat-related health issues involves your choice of clothing. The CDC recommends wearing lightweight clothing that is light in color and loose fitting. Though long-sleeve shirts seem to contradict that advice, the long sleeves protect your skin from the effects of the sun and help you to stay cool.

Don’t forget your hat. Those blessed with plenty of hair sometimes fail to recognize the importance of wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Such a hat is like carrying around a portable shade structure and will protect your face. Don’t forget to wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen wherever your skin is exposed to the sun. The CDC recommends a product of SPF 15 or higher that has the terms “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on the label.

And while it seems obvious, make use of any available shade.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at

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