You know that the hottest days of summer are called the “dog days.” But do know where that phrase originated? It’s a fascinating story.
The term “dog days” refers to those hot, humid days of oppressive heat between July and September when all you want to do is find some shade and relax with a big glass of iced tea.
The term has its roots in ancient Rome. Keen watchers of the sky, the Romans took particular note of the constellation Canis Major (which means the big dog). In this group of stars, one stands as the brightest-the star Sirius. In fact, it’s so bright that the Romans believed that the earth received heat from it.
In the summer, Sirius rises and sets around the same time as the sun. But in July, Sirius rises and sets almost exactly with the sun. The ancient Romans believed that the heat of Sirius, added to that of the sun, created a stretch of hot weather. And because Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, they called this period of time caniculares dies, which in Latin means “days of the dog”
Today of course we know that Sirius is much too far from the earth to add any heat, but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down when temperatures climb. In fact, we need to be extra vigilant because heat stress can sneak up on you. Some initial symptoms include:
*Headaches, dizziness, light headedness and fainting.
*Weakness and moist skin.
*Irritability or confusion.
*Upset stomach or vomiting.
If you notice these signs in yourself or coworkers, seek help immediately. To protect yourself from the heat, always drink plenty of water, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and cola; they can be dehydrating. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes. Take regular breaks. And stay alert to the warning signs of heat stress.
The dog days of summer last for 40 days, usually beginning on July 3 and ending on August 11. But we have to be on guard against heat stress every day that we are working in high temperatures. Why risk injury because of inattention or lack of knowledge? Instead, be smart about heat stress, and stay safe.
HEAT CAN HURT — PROTECT YOURSELF
*Copyright Harkins Safety 2008