Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Heat Precautions


What Is Extreme Heat?

Temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region and last for several weeks are defined as extreme heat. Humid or muggy conditions, which add to the discomfort of high temperatures, occur when a “dome” of high atmospheric pressure traps hazy, damp air near the ground. Droughts occur when a long period passes without substantial rainfall. A heat wave combined with a drought is a very dangerous situation.

When temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense.

The following tips are important:

Drink Plenty of Fluids

During hot weather, you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar – these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Replace Salt and Minerals

Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your body and must be replaced. If you exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. However, if you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen

Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully

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 are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop all activity immediately. Get into a cool area to rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak or faint.

Stay Cool Indoors

Stay indoors and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library – even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is high, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower, bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a better way to cool off. To keep your home cool, avoid using your stove and oven.

Use a Buddy System

When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are age 65 or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

This information provided courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control

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