by Leslie Horton, Yavapai County Community Health Services
Prescott summers can bring some beautiful, sun-filled days and with them some dangerously high temperatures. To prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, there are steps people can follow to stay safe when it is hot outside.
You can prepare for extreme heat by:
- Stocking up on food, water and medicines so you don’t have to go out in the heat. Visit your doctor to check if changes are needed to your medicines during extreme heat.
- Storing medicines safely at the recommended temperature.
- Checking that your fan or air-conditioner works well. Have your air-conditioner serviced if necessary.
- Looking at the things you can do to make your home cooler such as installing window coverings, shade cloths or external blinds on the sides of the house facing the sun.
Basic Tips to Staying Safe in the Summer Heat
- Stay indoors in air conditioning as much as possible during the hottest hours of the day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- If you do go outside, stay in the shade.
- If your home is not air-conditioned, spend at least two hours daily at an air-conditioned mall, library or other public place.
- Wear sunscreen outside along with loose-fitting, light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
- Drink water regularly even if you are not thirsty. Limit alcohol and sugary drinks, which speeds dehydration.
- Never leave children or pets alone in the car. HOT CARS CAN BE DEADLY. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.
- Avoid exertion during the hottest part of the day.
- Take a cool shower or bath.
- Make sure to leave plenty of water for your pets.
- Be a good neighbor; check on the elderly and people with disabilities in your community who may need assistance keeping cool.
What Are the Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses?
Heat exhaustion: Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass (about four ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes.
If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 911 or the local emergency number.
Heat Stroke: Heat Stroke results from having an abnormally elevated body temperature. Whenever our body works out, it naturally generates heat, which usually escapes through the skin or through the evaporation of sweat. However, when you work out in extreme heat or humidity (or when you work out at a high intensity outside and do not hydrate yourself), the heat your body produces may not be able to dissipate well enough and your body temperature rises, sometimes up to 106°F or higher.
How Do I Know it’s Heat stroke? Heat stroke symptoms can sometimes mimic those of a heart attack or other conditions. Often, an individual will experience signs of heat exhaustion before the condition escalates to heat stroke. Heat exhaustion symptoms include nausea, fatigue, headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, weakness and vomiting.
Heat stroke symptoms include a high body temperature, the absence of sweating, red or flushed dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, disorientation, agitation, seizure and/or coma.
Prevention: Avoid working out in high-temperature or humid environments. If you cannot avoid physical exertion in these environments, be sure to frequently hydrate yourself to help keep your body temperature down and take breaks as often as possible. Also, avoid drinking caffeine, alcohol or tea, as this may lead to dehydration.
Treatment: Heat stroke is a medical emergency that can lead to brain or organ damage and even death. If you or someone around you is exhibiting symptoms of a heat stroke, immediately call 911. While you are waiting for emergency medical services, get the victim to a shady area, remove clothing, and apply cool or warm water to the skin, fan the victim to promote sweating, and place ice packs under the armpits and groin.
FIGHT THE BITE
As the weather heats up and mosquitoes become more active, you can help us Fight the Bite:
- Use an insect repellent that contains DEET. Most repellents contain the active ingredient DEET and give you about five hours of mosquito protection depending on variables like perspiration, rubbing, temperature or an abundance of mosquitoes.
- Look for DEET products with a concentration of 35 percent or less; above 35 percent offers no meaningful additional protection.
- You may apply the repellent to clothing and uncovered skin.
- Avoid contact with your eyes, nose or lips.
- Ask your veterinarian about special repellents that can be applied to dogs.