Heat-related deaths and illness is preventable yet annually over 700 people die each year from heat related deaths in the United States. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs. The best way to deal with potential heat-related problems is to learn how to prevent them in the first place. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time, especially with prolonged periods of exercise. There are three basic types of heat-related illness – heat cramps, heat exhaustion—and the most serious is heat stroke. Older adults (65 years and older), infants and children and people with chronic medical conditions are more prone to heat stress.
The following tips can help you stay cool and save your life.
- Exercise in the early morning or in the evening and decrease your level of exercise.
- If you must be outside during the hottest time of the day, seek shade as often as possible.
- Protecting the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, applying and reapplying sunscreen is important.
- Wear loose fitting clothing, preferably of a light color.
- Cotton clothing will keep you cooler than many synthetics.
- A hat is smart summer fashion. Throwing on a wide-brimmed hat prevents UV rays from hitting the sensitive spots on your face and keeps your skin looking young and wrinkle-free. Umbrellas are a great shade provider.
- Sunglasses prevent harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from scorching your corneas and protect your eyes. Choose sunglasses that block 90 to 100 percent of UV rays.
- Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the refrigerator for a quick refreshing spray to your face after being outdoors.
- Fans can help circulate air and make you feel cooler even in an air-conditioned house. Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise.
- Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death.
- Try storing lotions or cosmetic toners in the refrigerator to use on hot, overtired feet.
- Keep plastic bottles of water in the freezer; grab one when you’re ready to go outside. As the ice melts, you’ll have a supply of cold water with you.
- Take frequent baths or showers with cool or tepid water.
- Combat dehydration by drinking plenty of water along with sports drinks or other sources of electrolytes.
- Drink cool, nonalcoholic caffeine free beverages and increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level to avoid dehydration.
- Instead of hot foods, try lighter summer fare including frequent small meals or snacks containing cold fruit or low fat dairy products.
- If you don’t have air-conditioning, arrange to spend at least parts of the day in a shopping mall, public library, movie theater, or other public space that is cool. Many cities have cooling centers that are open to the public on sweltering days.
- NEVER LEAVE A CHILD OR PET UNATTENDED IN A CAR! Temperatures inside a car can exceed 120 degrees – hot enough to cause death quickly.
- Finally, use common sense. If the heat is intolerable, stay indoors when you can and avoid activities in direct sunlight or on hot asphalt surfaces. Pay special attention to the elderly, infants, and anyone with a chronic illness, as they may dehydrate easily and be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Don’t forget that pets also need protection from dehydration and heat-related illnesses too.
What to Eat:
The food you eat can also help you stay cool. Try adjusting your diet so that it includes:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Salads and other dishes rich in seasonal produce will keep you feeling light and hydrated.
- The sweat caused by spicy foods has a purpose; the sweat actually cools your body down.
- Eat low-fat meals fat meals. Fat takes longer for your body to digest and carries a higher salt content, which can add extra strain on your body when you need it maximized for efficiency.
You are also at high risk if you:
- Have certain medical conditions.
- Take medicine for high blood pressure.
- Have mental health conditions.
- Have been drinking alcohol.
- Use IV drugs
- Have had a previous, heat-related illness.
Save Energy Cost:
- Set your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher. You save 3% -5% on your air conditioning cost for each degree you raise the thermostat.
- Replace filters often, even in the summer.
- Keep your air conditioning duct vents clean and clear.
- Make sure furniture or drapes are not blocking air vents or keeping cool air from circulating freely.
- Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL’S) or LED Bulbs. LED lights are brighter than CFL using less electricity. LED do cost more to buy and last longer than CFL’s.
- Turn off air and open windows for a cross breeze on cooler evenings.
- Keep lights off or turned down.
- Get your home weatherized
Understand the signs of heat related illnesses, heat cramps occur mostly in the muscles of the legs, often causing severe pain and spasms. Dehydration can also cause heat exhaustion. Along with heavy sweating, systems include dizziness, weakness, nausea, extreme thirst, anxiety and sometimes a low-grade fever. Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat related illness. Heat stroke occurs when the brain cannot properly regulate body temperature under extreme hot and humid conditions.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE INFORMED AND TO TAKE THE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS TO BE SAFE.