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HEALTH ADVISORY: Safety During Excessive Heat

Jul 8

Written by:
7/8/2010 5:13 AM  RssIcon

Red Cross Encourages Safety During Excessive Heat American Red Cross
As the temperature continues to increase as it is predicted to this week, the American Red Cross encourages individuals and families to take the necessary precautions for excessive heat.  The very young and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the heat so it is important that families and friends check on them regularly.  People with chronic health issues are also at greater risk and need to take special care to stay healthy in the heat.

Preventing Heat-Related Illness
There are several precautions you can take to avoid heat-related injury and illness.
• Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing (light colors reflect away some of the sun's energy) and use a hat or an umbrella.

• Carry water or juice with you and drink frequently, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body.

• Make sure to check on youth and elderly to make sure they have enough fluids.
• Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increases metabolic heat.
• Avoid using salt tablets unless directed by a physician.
• Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do something physically demanding, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m.

• Stay indoors as much as possible.
• Take regular breaks when engaging in physical activity on warm days.
• Take time out to find a cool place.
Watch for signs of heat stroke: Heat stroke is life-threatening. The person's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.

• Hot, red, and usually dry skin, but in some cases such as during athletic activity while wearing a helmet, the skin may be moist

• Changes in consciousness
• Rapid, weak pulse, and
• Rapid, shallow breathing.
• Call 9-1-1 or your local EMS number.
• Move the person to a cooler place.
• Quickly cool the body by wrapping wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, place them on each of the victim's wrists and  ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels.

• Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear.
• Keep the person lying down.
Protecting Your Pets
Many people include their pets in outdoor activities, but animals, like humans, can easily overheat during the hot summer months. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) recommends these tips to prevent heat-related illness in a pet:

• Limit exercise to the coolest part of the day, typically early in the morning. Even in the coolest part of the day, watch for signs of trouble. Glassy eyes and frantic panting indicate a dog needs help.

• Make sure your dog has constant access to shade and an endless supply of cool, clean water.
• Never leave a dog in a car, even for a few minutes.
• Remember that older, obese and short-nosed dogs are less tolerant of heat.
• Pet owners should be especially vigilant for signs of heat stroke.
• Heat stroke in animals can be deadly and requires emergency medical attention. While seeking medical help, cool the animal down with wet towels, spray him/her with cool water, or provide ice chips for him/her to chew if conscious.

Symptoms of heat stroke in animals can include the following:
• Sluggish and non-responsive demeanor
• Bright red and/or dry tongue and gums
• Vomiting or diarrhea
• Unusual breathing patter, heavy panting, or high heart rate
To learn more about summertime safety for pets, contact your local Humane Society.
Additional information is available on Public Health- Seattle & King County's website: http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/news/2008/BeatTheHeat.aspx

Enjoy the sun!!

Robin Pfohman
Program Manager, Vulnerable Populations Action Team
Public Health - Seattle & King County                  
401 Fifth Avenue, 13th floor                           
Seattle, WA 98104                                      
Phone: 206.263.8759                            
Fax: 206.296.0629                                      
Website: http://www.metrokc.gov/health/VPAT/
robin.pfohman@kingcounty.gov

Categories of Health Messages
Health Alert: conveys the highest level of importance; warrants immediate action or attention.
Health Advisory: provides important information for a specific incident or situation; may not require immediate action.

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