Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story originally published in The Sacramento Bee on Aug. 2, 2012.
Heat is expected to endure in the Sacramento Valley and elsewhere in the West for several days, bringing our focus again onto how hot temperatures can affect our lives:
1. Tires gain weight
Yes, it’s swimsuit season, but your tires aren’t taking notice. Tires can gain up to 7 pounds when they heat up.
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Despite the bloating, experts say most tires are under-inflated and the additional weight is not a cause for concern. However, auto mechanics see much of their summer business coming from radiators and water pumps failing from the extreme heat. Heat will push batteries on the verge of failing over the edge and old tires will shred from the warmth.
2. Athletes adjust training
In this part of the country, where high humidity seldom accompanies high temperatures (”But it’s a dry heat, yada, yada ...”), concern for athletes and teams is air quality, ranked from good to hazardous on the air quality index.
Some team practices continue when air is deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups, but athletes with asthma and other problems should consider sitting out. Once air reaches the generally unhealthy mark, outdoor practices should be called off or moved to cooler times of the day, such as early morning.
3. Animals are sensitive
Certain animals are more susceptible than others to heat extremes. Panting might not be a soothing noise, but it’s the dog version of sweating and is necessary for them to cool down.
Dogs with smashed faces, such as bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers, can’t breathe as well in the heat because of the way their nasal passages are formed, according to Mueller Pet Medical Center. Pet owners should keep them inside and ensure they have water to drink.
4. Tree branches break
The “snap, crackle, pop” sound has moved out of your cereal bowl and into your trees. Extreme heat, combined with a lack of rain, can lead to tree branches breaking and falling, said Sean Barry, a spokesman for the Arbor Day Foundation.
A tree normally draws water from the ground through its roots, but when the earth dries, a tree is left to hold onto its water reserves and becomes heavier, and branches can break.
5. Drug awareness needed
Blazing temperatures mixed with alcohol, diuretics, beta blockers, anxiety medicines and tranquilizers can be dangerous, even deadly. Psychotropic drugs and alcohol can make people unaware of how hot they are, while beta blockers can slow heart rates and diuretics and alcohol can lead to dehydration, said Dr. Calvin Hirsch of the UC Davis Health System.
Three inmates taking psychotropic drugs died of hyperthermia at Vacaville Medical Facility in 1991. Their deaths spotlighted how such drugs make people unaware of dangerously high body temperatures.
6. Mobile devices like it cool
The sun can melt your ice cream and fry your eggs, and it can also destroy your cellphone or tablet.
Mobile devices should not be left in direct sunlight or be placed in car trunks for long periods, says Jay Moller of MetroPCS. He said heat can leave phones – as intricate electronic instruments – permanently inoperable.
7. Some pests are suppressed
Say goodbye to snails, slugs and other slimy creatures lingering around plants. Extreme heat suppresses their activity and eliminates a lot of fungus, says Debbie Woodruff, owner of Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery. But pumpkins, tomatoes and cucumbers flourish.
8. Pools get thirsty, too
When temperatures soar, crystal-blue pools are more likely to turn green.
Algae starts spreading and growing under the baking sun “like a greenhouse,” making pools require more chlorine, said Best Pool Supply Inc.’s Jim Veach. A small temperature burst from 84 degrees to 90 degrees will make a pool need almost double its amount of chlorine, Veach said.
9. Playgrounds slides not so hot
Metal slides in playgrounds – once perched under the blinding sun – are now rare sights. Today’s playground equipment is less heat-sensitive, and many playgrounds are built in shaded areas and under tree canopies, recreation experts say.
10. Insects take over
It’s not a bird. It’s not a plane. It’s a swarm of insects that has grown during the summer months. When temperatures range between 80 and 100 degrees, insects go through their life cycles more quickly, said UC Davis Entomology Professor Lynn Kimsey. Larvae quickly reach adulthood within a week or two, and female houseflies can lay 500 eggs in their lifetimes, which is why house flies become problematic in late summer and early fall, Kimsey said.