SRHD offers tips to help combat record breaking heat

SRHD offers tips to help combat record breaking heat

Record breaking heat has recently swept across the Inland Northwest and experts at Spokane Regional Health District note that while this hot weather can be uncomfortable, it also has the potential to threaten people’s health and lives.

As a result, health officials have put together a list of guidelines to help area residents combat the heat.

According to Spokane Regional Health District experts, 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.

To avoid heat-related illness on hot days, SRHD recommends the following:

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 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 stroke (see below).
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 and blinds or curtains drawn during the hottest part of the day, or when 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, 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. 

Groups at risk for problems associated with higher temperatures include children, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, and people who take certain medications like tranquilizers or diuretics. Others can also include older people who live in homes or apartments without air conditioning or good airflow, and people who do not drink enough water.

SRHD experts say individuals should make themselves aware of the symptoms associated with heat-related illnesses.

The symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, weakness and nausea. A person suffering from from heat exhaustion may feel uncoordinated, perhaps thirsty, and sweat a lot. Their skin may feel cool 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.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, SRHD experts recommend 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 as a possible remedy. If these precautions are not taken, heat exhaustion has the potential to turn into a life-threatening heat stroke.

Heat stroke is an emergency, and requires immediate help as it can be fatal. Signs of heat stroke include fainting, a body temperature of over 104 degrees, a change in behavior such as confusion and delirium, light headedness, dry flushed skin, not sweating in spite of the heat, and either a strong rapid pulse or a slow week pulse. These conditions can progress into a coma.

If an individual shows symptoms of heat stroke, 911 should be called immediately. The individual should be taken out of the sun and heat; have them lie down. If conscious, the should be given plenty of water or juice to drink. If possible, the heat stroke victim’s body should be cooled down with a cool shower, bath or by sponging with cool water. Prompt medical attention is critical, as heat stroke can cause death.

More information about avoiding heat-related illness can be found at the U.S. Centers For Disease Control’s web page. Additional information can also be found at www.srhd.org.