Summer Heat Safety Guide

Posted on Friday 22 June 2012

Because of the current summer heat wave, I wanted to post some information on Summer Heat Safety… taken from the NY Red Cross website.

I’d add that you really need to stay well hydrated…by the time you become thirsty, you’re already well on your way to being dehydrated, so drink water, and lots of it. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol, as both tend to dehydrate you.

Stay safe and cool… Don’t want to see any of my friends and family become heat-related statistics.

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Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit (F) within minutes. Exposure to such high temperatures can kill in minutes.

Drink plenty of water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you don’t feel thirsty. Injury and death can occur from dehydration, which can happen quickly and unnoticed. Symptoms of dehydration are often confused with other causes. Your body needs water to keep cool. Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies.

Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine. They can make you feel good briefly, but make the heat’s effects on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which actually dehydrates the body. People who are on fluid-restrictive diets or who have a problem with fluid retention should consult their doctor before increasing liquid intake.

Air conditioning provides the safest escape from extreme heat, and there are ways to maximize how it can work for you:

  • Install window air conditioners snugly.
  • Check air conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
  • Vacuum air conditioner filters weekly during periods of high use to provide more cool air.
  • Go elsewhere to get relief during the hottest part of the day if you have no air conditioning.

Stay indoors as much as possible, on the lowest floor out of the sun.

Keep heat outside and cool air inside, closing any doors or windows that may allow heat in.

Consider keeping storm windows installed throughout the year to keep the heat out of a house.

Plan to check on family, friends, and neighbors -especially the elderly – who do not have air conditioning or who spend much of their time alone.

Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors reflect heat and sunlight and help you maintain a normal body temperature. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and over-warming effects of sunlight on your body. Keep direct sunlight off your face by wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Sunlight can burn and warm and inner core of your body. Also use umbrellas and sunglasses to shield against the sun’s rays.

Change into dry clothing if your clothes become saturated with sweat.

Use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or more—even on cloudy days.

Apply a liberal amount of sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside

Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

Eat small meals of carbohydrates, salads and fruit, and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, because they increase metabolic heat.

Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.

Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activity. If you must engage in strenuous activity, do so during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

Stay in the shade when possible, and avoid prolonged sun exposure during the hottest part of the day, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Take frequent breaks when working outdoors or engaging in physical activity on warm days. Take time out to find a cool place. If you recognize that you or someone else is showing signs of a heat-related illness, stop activity and find a cool place. Remember, have fun, but stay cool!

Know the Meaning of Heat-Related Terms

Heat Wave: More than 48 hours of excessive heat (90oF or higher) and high humidity (80 percent relative humidity or higher).

Heat Index: A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15o F.

Know the Stages of Heat-Related Illness

Get training and be alert to heat related illness symptoms. Take an American Red Cross First Aid course to learn how to treat heat and other emergencies. Everyone should know how to respond, because the effects of heat can happen very quickly. Watch for these health signals:

Heat cramps: Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion that usually involve the abdominal muscles or the legs. These cramps can be very painful. It is thought that the loss of water and salt from heavy sweating causes the cramps. Heat cramps are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.

Heat Exhaustion: A less dangerous condition than heat stroke, heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Fluid loss causes blood flow to the skin to increase, and blood flow to vital organs to decrease, resulting in a form of mild shock. Sweat does not evaporate as it should, possibly because of high humidity or too many layers of clothing. As a result, the body is not cooled properly. If not treated, a person with heat exhaustion may suffer heat stroke.

The signals of heat exhaustion include:

  • –Cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin (the skin may be red right after physical activity)
  • –Heavy sweating
  • –Headache
  • –Dizziness and weakness or exhaustion
  • –Nausea
  • –The skin may or may not feel hot
  • –Body temperature will be near normal

Heat Stroke: Also known as sunstroke, heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.

The signals of heat stroke include:

  • –Vomiting
  • –Decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness
  • –High body temperature (sometimes as high as 105 degrees F)
  • –Skin may still be moist or the person may stop sweating and the skin may be red, hot and dry
  • –Rapid, weak pulse
  • –Rapid, shallow breathing

This late stage of heat-related illness is life threatening. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.

General Care for Heat Emergencies

  • Cool the Body
  • Give Fluids
  • Minimize Shock

For heat cramps or heat exhaustion:

  • Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position.
  • If the person is fully awake and alert, give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not let him or her drink too quickly.
  • Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can make conditions worse.
  • Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths such as towels or wet sheets.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number if the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness.

For heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation! Help is needed fast.

  • Call 9-1-1 or your local EMS number.
  • Move the person to a cooler place.
  • Quickly cool the body. Wrap wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, wrap them in a cloth and place them on each of the victim’s wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. (Do not use rubbing alcohol because it closes the skin’s pores and prevents heat loss.)
  • Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear.
  • Keep the person lying down.

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