Friday, July 6, 2018

Staying Safe in the Summer Heat

As summer approaches in Louisiana, with record high temperatures already being topped and heat indices cracking triple digits, it is important to protect yourself and your loved ones from heat-related illness.

Heat-related illness, also known as heat stress, is a preventable illness that occurs when heat exposure exceeds the body’s capacity to cool and the core body temperature rises. When this happens, a range of heat-related symptoms and conditions may develop. Heat stress illnesses include, but are not limited to, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat syncope or heat rash.

Anyone, regardless of age, sex or health status may be at risk for heat stress illness, especially people who work outside and are exposed to extreme heat or hot work environments.

Despite heat-related illness being preventable, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year.

Hot Cars and Kids

According to national statistics, an average of 37 children die each year from being left unattended in vehicles. Between 1998 and 2018, 744 children died as a result of this. In Louisiana, there were 27 pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths during this time
High temperatures in vehicles, particularly in the summer months when temperatures can reach triple digits, contribute to this epidemic. In only 10 minutes, a vehicle can heat up 20 degrees and top 110 degrees Fahrenheit on days when it is only 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Heat stroke begins when the body reaches 104 degrees.

Be safe. Do not ever leave children or pets in a closed car. Small children and animals are not able to open a window or open a door like you can. Typically, they will be quiet as heat overcomes them, so there won't be crying or give any verbal signal that they are in trouble. The experts from tripsavvy say that cracking the windows doesn’t keep the temperature in the car from soaring. Report children or pets in hot cars to the police immediately by calling 911.

Here are some other tips to lessen the risk of heat-related illness:

  • Wear appropriate clothing. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Stay cool indoors. Stay in an air-conditioned building as much as possible. If your home does not have air-conditioning, go to the shopping mall or a public library – even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler. 
    • Contact local authorities to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
    • Keep in mind that electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully. Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest.
  • Wear sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going out.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
    • If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
    • Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks. These cause you to lose more body fluid.
  • Replace salt and minerals. Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
    • If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.
  • Keep your pets hydrated. Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.

It’s important to monitor those at high risk, such as infants and young children, people who are 65 or older, people who are overweight, those who overexert during work or exercise and anyone who is physically ill, especially those with heart disease or high blood pressure.

Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and watch them closely for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and children need much more frequent watching and remember to not leave children unattended in hot vehicles.

Learn the signs of heat-related illness.

Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting and fainting. If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.

Signs of heat stroke include high body temperature (above 103°F); hot, red, dry or moist skin; rapid and strong pulse and possible unconsciousness. If you suspect you or someone else has heat stroke, call 911 immediately. This is a medical emergency. Move the person to a cooler environment and use cool cloths or a bath to reduce the person's body temperature. Do not give fluids.

More information can be found here.

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