Stay cool and safe during Berkshire heat wave


With the Berkshires baking again under high heat and humidity, local physicians are urging residents and visitors to seek out cool air, cool water and cool drinks -- non-alcoholic and sugar-free, please.

Atop the beat-the-heat list is drinking plenty of water, the best liquid refreshment for staying hydrated, according to Dr. Ronald Hayden, chairman of emergency medicine at Berkshire Medical Center.

"Avoid alcohol and beverages high in sugar as they can actually cause dehydration," he said on Monday. "If drinking sports drinks, be wary of sugar content and sodium content."

As for external coolants, Hayden suggests people without air conditioning in their home or apartment seek out air conditioned stores, libraries or a friend or relative's home during the hottest hours of the day.

In addition, a cool bath or shower is in order, unless you have access to a pool or can make it to a local beach.

Swimmers headed to Onota and Pontoosuc lakes in Pittsfield this week can expect crowded beaches, which have been packed the first two weeks of July, according to city officials.

Pittsfield's recreation activities coordinator Rebecca Tefft wants beach-goers to be safe both in and out of the water during the heat wave.

"Definitely stay hydrated and use plenty of sunscreen, even if you're going in the water," she said.

Tefft added people should swim to their ability, stay in designated swimming areas and watch for boaters. She cited several recent incidents where watercraft operators didn't stay at least 150 feet from the beaches.

"We've even had some kayaks come too close," Tefft noted.

Berkshirites should also pay close attention to those most likely to succumb to the heat.

Hayden says family and friends should regularly check on the elderly, the very young, and those with heart or mental health conditions to see how they are coping with the sultry, summer weather.

Hayden noted BMC's Emergency Department hasn't seen significant increase of heat-related illness this summer -- so far.

Pets are people, too

Family pets can beat the summer heat if their human companions follow these safety tips from the Humane Society of the United States:

Never leave pets in a parked car

Not even for a minute. Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die. If you see an animal in distress in a parked car, contact the nearest animal shelter or police.

Limit exercise on hot days

Limit exercise to early morning or evening hours. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible.

Don't rely on a fan

Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet. And fans don't cool off pets as effectively as they do people.

Provide ample shade and fresh water

In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don't obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat -- in fact, it makes it worse.

To reach Dick Lindsay:,
or (413) 496-6233.


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