Campus sweats through summer
A Welcome Center clerk doesn’t wear foundation because “it’s just going to melt off anyway.”
A chemistry professor trades his outdoor strolls for an indoor treadmill.
Students slather on sunblock and sip from water bottles as they trudge from cars to classes.
June 21 marked the first day of summer, but San Antonio had already endured record-breaking heat weeks earlier — and more is on the way, meteorologists say. Students and employees at Texas A&M University-San Antonio continue to sweat it out and try to stay cool.
Dr. John Smith, associate professor of kinesiology, recommends drinking plenty of water, taking breaks from the heat and wearing sunscreen and breathable clothing. He said sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade help replace electrolytes for those who work or play outdoors.
“You’ve got novice people who are out there who don’t understand how they’re supposed to be hydrating properly, and they may not recognize the heat illness they may be undergoing at that time,” Smith said.
With temperatures that reached triple digits by early June, the city experienced warmer weather approximately 6 degrees above normal for that time of year, said Brett Williams, climate program specialist with the National Weather Service’s office in New Braunfels, which covers Austin, San Antonio and the Plains of the Rio Grande.
The normal high from 1981-2010 was 92 degrees, while the average high June 3-9 was 98.6 degrees, Williams said in a phone interview June 13.
The city reached a sweltering 101 degrees, with a heat index of 102 degrees, June 6. More recently, temperatures climbed to 99 degrees the weekend of June 23-24, with a heat index of 106 Saturday and 105 Sunday, Williams wrote in an email June 26.
The heat index is measured by a formula of air temperature and relative humidity, “which is the apparent temperature to your skin,” Williams said.
That’s one of the worst things about summer, said history senior Dominique Preyor-Johnson. She said the humidity creates an “unpleasant atmosphere and can be a bit too much.”
Born and raised in San Antonio, Preyor-Johnson strongly dislikes the summer heat. She tries to avoid being outdoors but makes an exception to walk her dog, Hulk.
Preyor-Johnson said she has a pass to park in the lots closest to campus. This reduces her walk and time in the heat. She said students should “drink more water than we do on a normal basis to avoid heat stroke and dehydration.”
‘More triple-digit heat’ in forecast
San Antonio enjoyed a reprieve in mid-June with a little rain and cooler weather — the high was only 79 degrees June 19, according to weather.com — but the National Weather Service anticipates “more triple-digit heat in the next couple months,” Williams wrote in an email June 12.
“The Climate Prediction Center shows good odds of warmer than normal temperatures continuing this summer,” he wrote, adding that the lack of adequate rainfall contributes to hotter weather. Dry soil and dry air heat up faster.
To reduce their time in the heat, many students, faculty and staff find themselves darting between air-conditioned vehicles and climate-controlled buildings.
They include Bob Shelton, an assistant chemistry professor. Shelton also said he is familiar with the shaded parking spots on campus. A St. Louis transplant, Shelton said he has not adjusted to the Texas heat. Instead of taking walks outside in the summer, he uses a treadmill. Shelton also avoids doing as much yard work.
Like Shelton, San Antonio native Emmber Garcia prefers to stay cool inside, even though she’s used to the heat.
Garcia, who staffs the front desk at the Welcome Center, said she stays hydrated and refrains from wearing facial makeup that will just get ruined by sweat.
Both students and faculty find ways to adapt.
Richard Jenkins, an assistant professional track professor who teaches business communications, switches from business attire to business casual in the summer. His outfit included a short-sleeved button-down shirt during an interview in his office June 11.
Jenkins has lived in San Antonio since 1971. He worked as a carpenter for eight years and “knows Texas heat backward and forwards.”
He said he would rather tough out summers in Texas than live in a colder state such as North Dakota.
Others share his sentiment, preferring to see the positive side of summer.
David Guerrero, a student who works at the campus fitness center, swims more often this time of year. Guerrero said he doesn’t enjoy walking to class, but at least summer sessions are shorter, he said.
“It’s Texas, so what can we do?” he said.
For one thing, students can avoid taking classes during the hottest times of the day, said Samantha Salazar, kinesiology sophomore.
“So that’s why I chose early-morning classes,” she said in an interview June 11.
Salazar, who has a pool at home, said she also enjoys swimming in the summer.
Her advice for summer students is to “wear sunscreen, bring a water bottle and always wear a hat.” Salazar, who was wearing a gray baseball cap and holding a water bottle, said she had applied sunscreen that day.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
For some students, nothing beats an iced, blended coffee drink.
Johnny Rodriguez, a barista at the Starbucks stand in the student lounge, said “iced drinks,” specifically Frappuccinos, are the popular choice this time of year.
Experts say water is still the best choice, particularly for those who don’t regularly drink coffee or tea. Caffeinated beverages “don’t appear to increase the risk of dehydration,” according to a post from registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky on the Mayo Clinic’s website. Still, caffeine is a mild diuretic, which means it increases urine production. Caffeine can “have a more pronounced effect, especially on a hot day,” for non-caffeine drinkers, said Heather Mangieri, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a registered dietitian nutritionist, in an interview July 8, 2016, on Prevention.com.
Ashley Rodriguez, a campus tour coordinator, hopes to provide a water station for prospective students who visit TAMUSA.
Rodriguez said she educates tour guides on handling the summer heat. She advises them to wear comfortable but appropriate clothing such as shorts and a T-shirt. Daily tours operate 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday-Friday and range from 45 minutes to an hour. Half the tour is outside. Rodriguez and her staff provide water bottles at the beginning and the end of the tours.
Rodriguez said she is “working on creating water breaks” with the help of Chartwells, the university’s food service contractor. This will help to get water cups at a station as part of the campus tours. She said “everyone on campus should be carrying a refillable water bottle” to deal with summer heat. The university’s drinking fountains include special taps for that purpose.
Preyor-Johnson suggested A&M-San Antonio also offer “free cold waters” in the summer. She said the waters “would be nice for those that forgot a water bottle to refill.”
Water is important, but there’s more to staying hydrated than just drinking H2O, said Smith, the kinesiology professor. He recommends sports drinks for people who spend a lot of time working or exercising outside in the heat.
“When you sweat, you lose water, obviously, but you also lose other things called electrolytes, salts and potassiums,” Smith said. “Those kinds of things are needed in our body to keep our heart rate going, our organs functioning properly.”
Without the proper amount of electrolytes, the human body can become imbalanced, causing arrhythmia or hyponatremia, he said.
The Mesquite contacted the University Police Department for information on any heat-related incidents this summer on campus. However, Police Chief Ronald Davidson was not available for an interview before The Mesquite’s deadline.
Preventing heat illness
Smith said he teaches his summer students how to prescribe people with appropriate exercises and activities during the summer. He wants students to know about proper hydration and the signs of heat illnesses like heat stress. Signs include profuse sweating, feeling dehydrated and passing unusually dark urine.
He also advises people to wear moisture-wicking clothing for summer activities. Smith practices what he preaches as he wore a dry-fit short-sleeved polo during an interview June 18 in his office.
“I try to take the precautions,” Smith said. “Exercise earlier, or later in the day … make sure I stay hydrated.”
One construction worker on campus has been taking those precautions for three decades.
Pablo Aguero, a SpawGlass worker whose duties include directing traffic in Lot 2, is helping to construct the new Science and Technology building.
Aguero has been working outdoors for 30 years. He said he likes summer because the cement dries faster, which makes it easier to complete work compared with winter.
To protect himself from the sun, he wears long-sleeve button-up shirts, glasses, hats and gloves. To stay hydrated, he drinks at least one gallon of water a day and takes a five-minute break every 30-45 minutes.
Outdoor workers are not the only ones vulnerable to the heat.
Williams of the National Weather Service said it is especially hard on the elderly and young children, and that death by being trapped inside a hot car without proper ventilation is not uncommon this time of year.
The city of San Antonio offers Project Cool, a program providing seniors with 20-inch box fans during the summertime.
“Those not registered at a senior center may call the United Way Helpline at 2-1-1 to request a fan and will be referred to the nearest St. Vincent de Paul distribution site, along with the Guadalupe Community Center,” said Roland Martinez, public relations manager at the Department of Human Services/City of San Antonio.
Accounting junior Stephanie Seidel has a 2-year-old son who likes to be outside. She limits his time outdoors because it is easy to get dehydrated and her little boy does not always know when to take a break or drink water. Seidel said she consumes Gatorade and water; she also treats her son to popsicles in the summer.
Seidel said she dislikes summer. “You can only take off so many clothes before you can get in trouble,” she quipped.
Beat the heat — on two legs or four
Animals also suffer in hot weather. At least two students said they worry more about dogs than themselves.
Kinesiology senior Jordan Reynolds works for a dog day care. Her duties include walking the dogs at a dog park. Reynolds said she must watch for any signs of heat exhaustion.
“It can be [stressful], because you can have 50 dogs outside, and you have to pay attention to each one,” she said.
Born and raised in Texas, Reynolds is no stranger to hot weather. Even so, she says the heat makes her unable to focus sometimes, because all she can think about is how hot it is.
Her strategy? No tight clothing, said Reynolds, wearing a T-shirt and shorts during an interview June 11 in the cafeteria.
Jaguar Ambassador Martin Calderon can’t always choose what to wear. As an ambassador who sometimes sports a suit, he spends a lot of time outside greeting guests for campus events.
Calderon says the heat doesn’t bother him so much.
“It affects my dogs more than it affects me, so I’m always worried about them,” he said, “I always make sure to leave them outside no more than 10 minutes.”
Calderon says he keeps his dogs cool with “mini baths” of cold water every so often.
Spanish Professor Nelson Hernandez is from Honduras. He has been in San Antonio for many years and adapted to the weather here with ease.
It’s all relative, he said.
“People react to weather differently — because to some 85 degrees is cool, and to others it is extremely hot,” he said.
Hernandez said he does worry about students who trek to classes from far-flung parking spots along Verano Parkway and University Way.
“I see students walking almost a mile just to get to the school, and I know it is too hot for any of them to be walking so much,” he said.
Williams of the National Weather Service said people should be aware of the heat’s effects.
“Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are nothing to take lightly,” he wrote in his email June 12.
He echoed advice such as water, breaks and light, loose clothing, especially for those working outside.
“It is also for people engaging in outdoor recreation activities, such as folks out on Canyon Lake or tubing the Comal or Guadalupe rivers,” he wrote. “And of course we have concern for people who do not have adequate air-conditioning systems in their homes. The heat is especially hard for both elderly people and young children. The real concern is when humidity values increase and temperatures remain elevated, as that increases the heat index to dangerous levels (108 degrees and above).”