BENNINGTON — For folks who don’t have ready access to air conditioning or a nearby swimming pool, staying cool in hot temperatures can be more than an inconvenience — it can be a matter of life or death.
With that in mind, the Vermont Department of Health has published a map on its website showing Vermonters places where they can cool down with air conditioning or a quick splash.
Warm temperatures, and especially extreme heat and humidity, can quickly lead to sometimes serious heat-related illness and even death. Muscle cramps, heavy sweating, nausea, headache, or dizziness may all indicate onset of heat illness.
A map and heat safety resources are available at healthvermont.gov/health-environment/ climate-health/hot-weather.
“You’d be surprised at how fast your body can be affected by the temperature,” Jared Ulmer, climate and health program manager for the Health Department, said in an announcement. “Take frequent rest breaks, drink plenty of fluids, and spend time in the shade or a cooled room.”
Those who work or exercise outdoors, older adults and young children, people with obesity or other chronic medical conditions, people taking certain medications, and people using drugs or alcohol, should take extra precautions, the health department said.
The map shows where people can find cooling centers — often municipal buildings with air conditioning — as well as free and paid swimming locations. For example, in Arlington, you’ll find the Martha Canfield Memorial Library and the Arlington Rec Park. In Bennington, the Splash Pad is in green on the map as a free water cooldown spot; the Bennington Rec Center, which charges a fee for its pool, is in gold.
The department is also offering an alert service, allowing users to be notified by phone, text or email when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory, watch or warning. The weather service issues those statements when the heat index — a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature — is expected to be dangerously high.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of about 658 people per year succumb to extreme heat. From 1999 to 2010, 8,081 heat-related deaths were reported in the United States, the CDC said. In 72 percent of those cases, excessive heat was the underlying cause, and the most heat-related deaths take place in July and August.
Last June, a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada shattered high temperature records and was blamed in the deaths of more than 1,400 people.