Staying cool, keeping hydrated and moderating outdoor activities during hot weather can help you decrease the potential for heat-related illness, according to experts. The risk for heat-related illness and death is higher for infants and the elderly, whose internal thermostats do not regulate body temperature properly. People with chronic medical conditions, outdoor workers and people who exercise outside are also at increased risk. Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Use these tips to stay safe and healthy during a heat wave:
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
- Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
- If you don’t have air conditioning, go to a public building where you can cool off.
- Electric fans may provide comfort, but when temperatures reach the high 90s, fans won’t prevent heat-related illness. Take a cool shower or bath or move to an air-conditioned place.
- If outdoors, slow your pace and take frequent rest breaks.
- Try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
- Drink plenty of water and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.
- Avoid alcohol and limit drinks with caffeine.
- Check on elderly friends and neighbors. Make sure they’re staying cool and hydrated.
- Never leave children or pets in a parked car.
- Pets can suffer from heat-related illness too. If your pet spends its days outside, make sure it has plenty of fresh water and shade.
- Playground equipment can get very hot, so parents should do a touch test before letting their children play on it and be sure kids wear shoes to protect feet from hot pavement or surfaces.
- Check your local news for heat advisories, alerts and safety tips.
- Learn the symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
However, heat exhaustion can develop following exposure for several days to high temperatures. Symptoms include rapid heartbeat, cold, pale, clammy skin, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and fatigue. Heatstroke, the most serious heat-related illness, is a medical emergency characterized by a body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. Symptoms include hot, red skin, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, disorientation, delirium and coma. Anyone suffering from these conditions should be moved into the shade or air conditioning. If heatstroke or serious heat exhaustion is suspected, get emergency medical assistance.