July 27, 1998
Enjoy the hot weather but be careful
from the King County Dept. of Health
Hot weather is making a welcome return in this area. Whether you like the heat or not, you can get into trouble when the temperature soars.
Hard work or pay can overload your body with extra heat, especially is there is high humidity. If the body temperature rises above normal (98.6 F), the blood flow is increased near the surface of the skin, turning it red. This acts like a car radiator to cool the body. If increased blood flow to the skin doesn't cool you off, your body steps up production of perspiration. Evaporation cools the body. But when your body is pushed too far, it overheats and some form of heat stress occurs.
Babies, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses are most at risk. For example, they shouldn't sit waiting in a warm car even for a short period of time. That goes for pets, too.
The following are ways to prevent heat stress:
- Reduce physical activity as much as possible
- Spend time in air conditioned places, if necessary see a movie in an air conditioned movie theatre or visit a shopping mall
- Drink plenty of water, don't wait until you feel thirsty. Make sure pets have plenty of water
- Eat lightly
- Take appropriate breaks (stay in the shade)
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clolthing; hats may be useful to help block sun
- Use fans to keep air moving and to bring in cooler air; don't blow hot air on yourself.
- If you are cooling off at the beach or on a boat, remember water and boating safety! Swim in lifeguarded areas, use lifejackets, and do not drink and dive!
Here are some of the symptoms and treatments for mild heat stress:
- Muscle cramps
- Irritability, weakness, or mild dizziness
- Prickly heat, tiny red bumps and a prickling sensation
Take care of yourself immediately by resting in a cool, shady area and drinking plenty of water or other fluids. Taking sports drinks or additional salt is usually not necessary. Water is the best beverage for mild heat problems. Coffee and soda are not the best for fluid replacement once you are experiencing mild heat problems. Wet the skin - evaporation is an excellent cooling method.
Moderate Heat Exhaustion
- Excessive sweating, increased body temperature
- Extreme fatigue and thirst
- Nausea, dizziness
Take action immediately. Treat the same as with mild heat problems, and use cold compresses on forehead, neck, and arms. Medical treatment may be necessary.
Severe Heat Stroke (Elderly, infants, and children are most at risk)
Call for medical help right away. Remove outer clothing and cool the person with cold compresses while you wait for help.
- Lack of sweating
- Deep, rapid breathing and possibly irregular pulse
- Dizziness, confusion
During heat waves, open windows can be a hazard for toddlers. Children just learning to walk often climb on chairs and sofas to look out windows and feel a cool breeze. Around the country, several toddlers have done just that and toppled out windows. This type of incident is more common during extended periods of warm weather.
The Health Department reminds parents and caregivers (even those with screens on the windows) to use window stops which will allow the windows to open only 4 to 6 inches. If children can squeeze through the railings or bars on balconies and decks, chicken wire or netting can be attached to them.
While these are precautions that can prevent injury, nothing takes the place of good supervision.