Legacy Health offers heat wave safety tips

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



With the hottest week of the summer upon us, Legacy Health is offering tips for staying safe during the heat wave.

While hot weather can be dangerous for people of all ages, those at greatest risk of heat-related illness include infants and children younger than 4 years old, people who overexert during work or exercise, people 65 years and older, people who are ill or on certain medications, and people who are overweight.

Here are heat wave safety tips provided by Legacy Health:

Drink Plenty of Fluids Increase your fluid intake regardless of your activity level. During heavy exercise in hot weather, drink 2-4 glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. Consult with your doctor if you have been prescribed a fluid-restricted diet or diuretics. During hot weather, you will need to drink more liquid than your thirst indicates. This is especially true for those over 65 years of age. Avoid very cold beverages to prevent stomach cramps or drinks containing alcohol, which will actually cause you to lose more fluid.

Replace Salt and Minerals Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body, which are necessary for your body and must be replaced. The best way to replace salt and minerals is to drink fruit juice or a sports beverage during exercise or any work in the heat. Do not take salt tablets unless directed by your doctor. If you are on a low salt diet, ask your doctor before changing what you eat or drink.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. In the sun, a wide-brimmed hat will keep the head cool. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. Check the sun protection factor (SPF) number on the label of sunscreens and select SPF 15 or higher.

Slow Down Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities to the coolest time of the day. Those at risk should stay in the coolest available place, which is not necessarily indoors.

Pace Yourself If you are unaccustomed to working or exercising in hot weather, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop all activity, get into a cool or shady area and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak or feel faint.

Stay Cool Indoors The best way to beat the heat is to stay in an air-conditioned area. If you do not have an air conditioner or evaporative cooling unit, consider a visit to a shopping mall or public library for a few hours. Do not rely on electric fans as your primary cooling device during a heat wave. When the temperature is in the high 90s or higher, a fan will not prevent heat-related illness. A cool shower or bath is a more effective way to cool off.

Use a Buddy System When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your coworkers and have someone do the same for you.

Use Common Sense Avoid hot foods and heavy meals; they add heat to your body. Do not leave infants, children or pets in a parked car. Bring your pets indoors with you to protect them. Dress infants and young children in cool, loose clothing and shade their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella. Limit sun exposure during the midday hours and in places of potential severe exposure, such as beaches. Make sure that infants and children drink adequate amounts of liquids.

Give your outdoor animals plenty of fresh water, leave the water in a shady area and consider wetting the animal down

Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion

Two common problems during a heat wave are heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat.

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include:

• an extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)

• unconsciousness

• dizziness, nausea and confusion

• red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)

• rapid, strong pulse and

• throbbing headache.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion vary but may include:

• heavy sweating

• muscle cramps

• weakness

• headache

• nausea or vomiting (If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side)

• paleness, tiredness, dizziness.

What to Do

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim:

• Get the victim to a shady area

• Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place in a cool shower; spray with cool water from a garden hose; sponge with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.

• If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions

• Do not give the victim alcohol to drink