Health District Offers Tips for Beating the Heat
SPOKANE, Wash. – Hot weather can be more than just uncomfortable—it can pose a threat to people’s health or even their lives, say experts at Spokane Regional Health District.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and not drinking enough fluids. Heat stroke occurs when the body is no longer able to regulate its temperature. If not treated immediately, heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability.
During the summer months, the temperature inside a parked car can reach more than 120 degrees in as little as 10 minutes. Direct sunlight and dark-colored interiors further speed the process. Children and animals should never be left in a parked car, even for a few minutes and even with the windows open. Lock parked cars to prevent children from playing in them.
In addition to children, people of any age can suffer the dangers of heat, indoors or out. To stay safe and healthy during hot weather, know the signs of heat stress and the simple things people can do—like drinking plenty of water—to reduce the risk of heat-related illness and death.
Children, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses and people who take certain medications like tranquilizers or diuretics are especially at risk for problems from high summer temperatures. So are older people who live in homes or apartments without air conditioning or good air flow, and people who don’t drink enough water.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, weakness and nausea. A person suffering from heat exhaustion may feel uncoordinated, perhaps thirsty and sweat a lot. Their skin may feel cold and clammy, although their body temperature may be normal. Being exposed to high temperatures for too long can also cause muscle cramps and swelling in the feet or ankles. What to do: usually, resting in a cool place, out of the sun, drinking plenty of water or fluids (but not alcohol or caffeine), and washing off with cool water if possible is sufficient to remedy this condition. If precautions are not taken or the person is not treated, heat exhaustion may turn into life-threatening heat stroke.
Heat stroke is an emergency and requires immediate medical help—it can be fatal. Signs of heat stroke include fainting; a body temperature of over 104 degrees; a change in behavior such as confusion, acting delirious; light headedness; dry flushed skin; not sweating in spite of the heat; and a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse. These symptoms may progress to slipping into a coma. What to do: call 911; get the person out of the sun and heat and have them lie down; give them plenty of water or juice to drink if they are conscious; cool their body down with a cool shower or bath or by sponging with cool water. Prompt medical attention is critical—people can die of heat stroke.
To avoid heat-related illness on hot days:
- Drink plenty of water or fruit and vegetable juices. Avoid caffeine or alcohol.
- Limit your time outdoors, especially in the afternoon when the day is hottest.
- Be careful about exercising or doing a lot of activities when it is hot. Stay out of the sun, take frequent breaks, drink water or juice often, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Dress for the weather. Loose-fitting, light-colored cotton clothes are cooler than dark colors or some synthetics.
- If you live in a home without fans or air conditioning, open windows to allow air flow, and keep shades, blinds or curtains drawn in the hottest part of the day or when the windows are in direct sunlight. Try to spend at least part of the day in an air conditioned place like a shopping mall, a store, the library, a friend’s house, or the movies. Cool showers can help, too. Do not use a fan when the air temperature is above 95 degrees -– it will blow hot air, which can add to heat stress.
- Never leave a child or a disabled or elderly person or a pet in an unattended car, even with the windows down. A closed vehicle can heat up to dangerous levels in as little as ten minutes.
For more information about avoiding heat-related illness, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Web page. More information can also be found at www.srhd.org. SRHD’s website offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.