A headline in the Bulletin last week announced that the heat is being turned up for a host of events next weekend that coincide with the 45th annual Brown County Rodeo.

That was intended to be a pun, in case you missed it, because one of those events is the Salsa Festival planned downtown on Saturday. But the chip dip isnít the only thing thatís bringing heat to Central Texas this time of year. Summer is doing its part to uphold that Texas tradition.

Americans find themselves this week near the middle of the ďdog days of summer,Ē usually the hottest period of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Itís a period the Old Farmerís Almanac defines as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending Aug. 11. It coincides with the ancient heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the ďDog Star,Ē Sirius.

Astronomical and historic references aside, the weather is just plain hot - and itís especially so in Texas. And with it can come severe health problems, the most common being heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion is a warning that the body is getting too hot. A person may be thirsty, giddy, weak, uncoordinated, nauseous, sweating profusely and the skin is cold and clammy.

Heat stroke kills an average of 1,700 Americans each year, about 80 percent of them age 50 and older. A person with heat stroke has a body temperature above 104 degrees F. Symptoms may include confusion, combativeness, bizarre behavior, faintness, staggering, strong rapid pulse, dry flushed skin, lack of sweating and possible delirium or coma. Immediate medical attention is essential when problems first begin.

How can heat-related illness be prevented?

Drink plenty of liquids, even if not thirsty. Seniors should drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day. Eating fruits with high water content such as watermelon, pineapple, grapes, strawberries, peaches, apples and pears will also help to supply needed body fluids to prevent dehydration.

Dress in lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Avoid being outside in the midday heat and donít engage in vigorous activity between noon and 4 p.m. When participating in outdoor sports and activities, be sure to protect the skin by using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher (exposure to sunlight is a major cause of skin-related health problems). Take shade under a hat or an umbrella.

Turn on your air-conditioner in the afternoons, or try to visit air-conditioned places such as senior centers, shopping malls, libraries and theaters if you canít afford it have it.

Avoid hot, heavy meals. Do a minimum of cooking and use an oven only when necessary.

and practice safe food handling. Perishable foods should never be left out for more than two hours.

Summer is a time of the year when people enjoy spending time outdoors. Choosing those times wisely, however, can help prevent serious health problems.

Brownwood Bulletin