By Holly Glen Gearhart
High sun and clear skies maybe an invitation to get out and have some fun but heat exhaustion or stroke could quickly turn summertime fun to summertime disaster.
Something as simple as drinking enough water and seeking shade can help ward off debilitating heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Staying indoors during the hottest time of the day can thwart heat related illnesses, but be aware it can also give you a false sense of security.
Few people in the Pacific Northwest have invested in air conditioning. Most residents rely on fans to keep cool. Keep in mind that houses and apartments can hold the outside temperatures until sundown or beyond, sometimes resulting in extra hours of 80 degree-plus heat. Fans will help, but alone they do not cool a home enough when heat is in the extremes.
As a general rule; wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing, drink plenty of water– more than usual—and do not wait until you are thirsty. If you must be outdoors, wear a brimmed hat and sunscreen.
Muscle cramps are often the first sign of heat-related illness and may indicate heat exhaustion or stroke. Here is a quick reference from the CDC.
||What You Should Do:
What You Should Do:
Some members of the population need special care during excessive heat.
If you or someone you know has a chronic medical condition, you or they may be less aware of temperature changes and less able to make changes when needed to cool down. Some medications can worsen the effects of extreme heat. Check medication information inserts for heat and sun related warnings. If you have questions, call any pharmacy.
People with medical conditions or on medications that reduce heat resistance should take extra precautions. Closely monitor water intake, make sure to drink more water than usual—don’t wait until you are thirsty. Wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing and avoid cooking indoors. To aid in cooling down take a cool, not overly cold, shower or bath.
Those who do not have access to air conditioners can seek out cooling stations such as the East County Senior Center.
Marc Anvi, ECSC director, reported that the senior center will stay open until 9 p.m. on days with excessive heat to provide a cool space for anyone who needs it. Check with ECSC and other places in town before there is a need.
Have a plan in advance and if anything looks out of the ordinary, take action.
Infants and young children are especially sensitive to extreme heat as they must rely on others to keep them cool and hydrated. Dress your child in lightweight and loose fitting clothing and be sure they drink plenty of water.
NEVER leave infants or children in a parked car, even if the windows are open. Never leave pets in a parked car, as they can suffer immediate heat-related illnesses.
Outdoor workers are also more likely to experience dehydration and are easily subjected to heat-related illnesses.
While working outdoors, drink two to four cups of water every hour. Wear a wide brimmed hat and loose fitting light weight clothing, use sunscreen and reapply it frequently. Spend break times in air-conditioned areas, and do not drink alcohol or sugary drinks.
When possible, schedule outdoor work at cooler times of the day or reschedule to a time when heat warnings are not in effect. After work seek out an air conditioned space to cool down.
If you feel faint or weak, immediately stop what you are doing and cool down.
Those who are 65 years or older may be less able to sense changes in temperature and take necessary action. Be especially aware of muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting. Follow the guidelines set forth above; wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing and drink plenty of water.
If you exercise in extreme heat you will be more likely to become dehydrated, so limit your outdoor activities to cooler times of day, use sunscreen and reapply it frequently. Monitor your regimen, begin slowly, then gradually get up to speed. Drink plenty of water, take breaks and be aware of muscle cramps, as they are often the first sign of trouble.
“Excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods,” according to the CDC. “A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally 10 degrees or more above average, often combined with excessive humidity.”
Keep an eye on weather forecasts if you hear the terms:
• Excessive Heat Watch – Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.
• Excessive Heat Warning – Heat Index values are forecasting to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least two days (daytime highs=105-110° Fahrenheit).
• Heat Advisory – Heat Index values are forecasting to meet locally defined advisory criteria for one to two days (daytime highs=100-105° Fahrenheit). If in doubt take action — a few minutes can make the difference between having a great summertime or one you would rather forget.