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Saturday, Apr. 19, 2014

Taking care of the body is important in summer heat

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

SIKESTON -- It's bad enough it was a Monday morning, but when he heard the National Weather Service predicted the day's high to be 95 degrees with a heat index of 108, well, let's just say Arthur Cassell was less than motivated to get up and start his day.

Cassell, a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier, who's been working in the heat as a carrier for 20 years, said there are many things to remember during scorching days like Monday.

"The most important thing when working in the heat is to get to know your body," Cassell said. "And drink lots of water."

Cassell said drinking water before he even gets thirsty helps keep him hydrated. Some people wait until they get thirsty to drink water, but they should drink it regardless, he said.

Wearing light clothing also helps when out in the sun, Cassell recommended. "We wear light clothes, and this mesh helmet," he said pointing to a white hat on his head. "This screens out the sun and if there's a breeze, we can feel it. It keeps our heads cool, and in return, keeps our body cool."

Cassell's helmet cannot be found in stores because it has to be specially ordered through a U.S. Postal magazine. He said many people along his route always compliment his hat. "Some even want me to order them one," he laughed.

Cassell has the right idea. During one of his many stops in the heat, Jeff Reynolds, a water plant specialist mechanic for the Sikeston Board of Municipalities, said he drinks lots of water throughout the day. Reynolds is responsible for taking water samples from nearby fire hydrants. His company supplies workers with plenty of Gatorade to drink.

Neither Cassell's or Reynolds' vehicles have air conditioning so whenever possible, they try to park in a shaded area. Although it may seem trivial, a little shade can keep the trucks a few degrees cooler. They also carry coolers of cold water with them.

Residents who had the day off were given the choice to spend their time indoors or outdoors. Some decided to hit the pool, while others decided to relax in the air-conditioned indoors.

The YMCA was expected to be a popular place Monday, but pool manager Courtney Pollack, said it's always crowded. The summer average is about 100 people per day, she said. The YMCA's maximum capacity is 150 people. She thought the pool would see an increase Monday.

Some may prefer things a little quieter. "A lot of times people come in just to get cool," Sikeston Public Library Director Sue Tangeman said. "They may not even have a library card at all. Some stay the whole day and read the newspaper or a book."

Tangeman said she does notice an increase in visitors when it gets hot and sticky outside. Everyone's welcome at the library, she said. Sometimes kids who are out playing will come inside and get a drink from the water fountain, she added.

Whether escaping the heat or enduring it -- for work or play -- the main thing to remember Monday was to play it safe.

In his 20 years as a letter carrier, Cassell has experienced one heat scare. Several years ago, he was working his mail route on a hot summer day, when he started seeing spots and felt weak. To remedy his sickness, Cassell said he just took a break and drank water.

For the people who have to be out in the heat, many workers say there's a simple equation: plenty of water + plenty of breaks = a healthy, hydrated person.

The National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., reports the rest of the week is to cool down after Monday night's scattered showers. The service predicts a few scattered showers and thunderstorms today, with a high of 85-90 degrees. Rain is expected to stop by Wednesday and the heat will rise into the mid-90s by the weekend.

People who aren't used to the heat, definitely need to be aware of its dangers, Cassell said. Outdoor labor workers, lawncare givers, athletes, etc. should all take precautions.

"Don't ignore your body's signs," Cassell said. "If you're feeling tired, take a break. Just listen to what your body's telling you."