Heat prompts warnings about staying safe

  • Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014 10:54 a.m.

With highs in the 90s for the next few days, it’s good to protect yourself and your pets from the excessive heat.

The American Red Cross reminds everyone of the steps they should take to stay safe.

“In recent years, extreme heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events,” said Angela A. Broome, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross Carolina Piedmont Region. “We encourage residents to stay aware of upcoming temperature changes, and take precautions against the dangers of heat.”

• Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.

• Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.

• Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.

• Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.

• Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.

• Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Ensure they have water and a shady place to rest.

• Eat small meals and eat more often.

• Avoid extreme temperature changes.

• Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.

Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. To help avoid problems, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and limit drinks with caffeine or alcohol.

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 4 ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes. 

If a person 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.

Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately if some shows signs of heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is warning people not to work out when it is so hot.

“Exercising in high temperatures can limit your body’s ability to cool itself, especially if you aren’t acclimated,” said Bret Nicks, M.D., associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “That can result in serious health risks, the most severe being heatstroke. Left untreated, heatstroke can cause major – and often permanent – damage to your brain, vital organs and muscles.”

Nicks shares the following tips to help you avoid heat-related illnesses:

Be proactive: Check with your doctor to make sure that any medical conditions you may have or medications that you’re taking will not increase your sensitivity to the heat.

Know the symptoms: They include, but are not limited to: heavy sweating or inability to sweat, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, confusion, fainting and seizures.

Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes: Consider items made of wicking material, which can help keep you cooler.

Use sun protection: Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat whenever possible. Avoid sunburn, which decreases your skin’s natural cooling processes.

Drink water early and often: Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Pre-hydrating and continuously replacing fluids and electrolytes is essential. 

Avoid peak sun times: If at all possible, exercise in the morning or evening. It’s better to miss a workout than to harm your body by pushing too hard during the middle of the day.

Listen to your body: If you’re cramping, feeling disoriented or nauseous, or having difficulty breathing, stop, get to a cool place, seek help and call 911 as needed.

“Working out in the heat can be a very serious matter,” Nicks said. “Thankfully, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.”

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