Friday, July 19, 2013

Keeping Safe During a Heat Wave

With the ongoing heat wave that continues to scorch Massachusetts, it is important to take the necessary precautions to minimize the threat of danger to your and your family’s health.  During heat waves such as this one where the humidity is also high, it can be difficult for the body to regulate a safe temperature.  To prevent dangerously high internal body temperatures from being reached, please limit prolonged exposure in the heat, over-exercising, and strenuous work.

It is important to recognize the symptoms of heat related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Some common signs or symptoms that one may be experiencing a heat related illness include confusion; dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration); dizziness; extreme sweating; faintness; weakness; muscle cramps; nausea; headaches; and pale skin.  Some people who are more susceptible to the dangers of extreme heat include seniors; very young children; those who are currently sick; and those who have certain health conditions such as being overweight or have heart, lung, or kidney disease.  Remember to also supply plenty of water for your pets, and to limit the length of time they spend outside.

Posted below are several tips provided by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA):

During Extreme Heat

•Slow down, avoid strenuous activity.  Do not try to do too much on a hot day.

•Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.  Light colors will reflect heat and sunlight and help maintain normal body temperature.

•Drink plenty of water; even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcoholic beverages and liquids high in sugar or caffeine. If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink during hot weather.

•Eat well-balanced, light, regular meals.

•Stay indoors as much as possible. If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover.

•If you do not have air conditioning, stay on your lowest floor, out of the sun.  Electric fans do not cool the air, but they do help evaporate sweat, which cools your body. Go to a place where you can get relief from the heat, such as air conditioned schools, libraries, theaters and other community facilities that may offer refuge during the warmest times of the day.

•Check with your community for information about possible local ‘cooling centers’ to assist those seeking relief from the oppressive heat.

•Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. If possible, use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

•Avoid too much sun exposure.  If you are outside, use sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating and wear a wide-brimmed hat.

•Never leave children or pets alone in a closed vehicle. Even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within 10 minutes.

•Do not leave pets outside for extended periods.  Make sure that pets have plenty of drinking water.

•Check on family, friends and neighbors especially the elderly, those who live alone, or those who may not have air conditioning.

•Particularly during extreme heat, if you experience a power outage during warm weather, you may need to go to a cooling center or emergency shelter to stay cool.