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Surviving a Move in the Summer Heat

Young boy waving goodbye as his family travels in the summer heat
Artur Debat / Getty Images

Summertime is the most popular time for moving. The kids are out of school, there’s more sunshine, and college students are getting settled in their next dorm or apartment. But summer also means extreme heat and higher levels of humidity, which can make moving from one home to another far more dangerous.

Recent research from the U.S. Global Change Research Program indicates that most people can adapt to incremental increases in temperatures, but children, pregnant women, and older adults are more susceptible to heat exhaustion because they are less able to regulate their body temperatures.

You’ll find better weather and better moving rates before the first of May or after Labor Day. When that isn’t possible, you must be more aware of the heat and plan to make accommodations to reduce the negative effect it can have on your health and the moving experience.

Tips for moving in the summer

Careful planning can help prevent heat-related illnesses. Dr. Celine Thum, medical director at ParaDocs Worldwide Inc., has several tips for staying safe while you move in the summer:

  • Aim to hydrate every 15 minutes, and provide plenty of water to movers.
  • Wear light-colored clothing.
  • Try moving in the morning when it is cooler.
  • Find a cool or shady place for pets and kids to hang out during the move.
  • Apply sweat-proof sunscreen, at least SPF 30, to protect your skin from UV rays, which can burn even on cloudy days.
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol, which are diuretics and could increase your risk of severe dehydration.
  • Be on the lookout for signs of heat exhaustion, including confusion, dizziness, nausea, and headaches.
  • If you experience signs of heat exhaustion, find shade or get inside where it’s cool and seek medical attention.
  • Wear oversized sunglasses with a UV protection label. Just because they are dark or mirrored doesn’t mean they block UV rays.

The Environmental Protection Agency makes it easy to determine when UV radiation is strongest in your city with a tool on its website or smartphone app.

Know what to keep out of the heat

Preparing your belongings to be transported during the summer also requires a little extra thought. Some items are more vulnerable to high temperatures and could be damaged if left in a moving van for extended periods. Take extra precautions with the following items.

  • Batteries
  • Candles
  • Cassette or VHS tapes
  • CDs
  • Cleaning products
  • Cosmetics
  • Crayons
  • DVDs
  • Electronics such as laptops, cameras, smartphones, and tablets
  • Medicine
  • Sunscreen

These types of things should be moved in an air-conditioned vehicle if possible. If not, pack them separately and near the rear of the truck so they can be the first to unload and won’t damage other items.

Know the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are both the result of the body’s inability to effectively cool itself when exposed to high temperatures or extended physical labor. Tolerance levels vary for each person, so the same conditions will affect people in different ways.

Dr. Carolyn Dean is a nutrition and diet expert and author of The Complete Natural Guide to Women’s Health. She offers says look out for the heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms include:

  • Flushed skin
  • Increased body temperature
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue

The symptoms for heat stroke and heat exhaustion overlap. The primary difference between the two is that a person with heat exhaustion will have a fever at or below 104°F. A person suffering from a heat stroke will have a temperature higher than 104°.

It is very important for anyone experiencing these symptoms to be transported to a medical facility. The patient should also be cooled by getting out of the sun and heat, removing excess clothing, and should take some of these cooling steps, as recommended by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Place the person in a tub of cool water
  • A cool shower
  • Spray them with a garden hose
  • Sponge the person down with cool water
  • Fan them while misting with cool water
  • Place cold, wet towels or ice packs on the person’s head, neck, armpits, and groin

How dangerous is the heat?

Overheating may seem to simply be part of the moving process, but during the heat of summer, it can be deadly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an average of more than 600 heat-related deaths per year between 1999 and 2010.

The analysis clearly showed a higher number of deaths among men each year; approximately 68 percent of those who died from heat-related conditions were men.

It is important for those moving during the summer to take the appropriate precautions for themselves and those who will be assisting in the move. Failing to do so can be fatal.


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