Eight ways to prevent heat-related problems

FALLBROOK – With local temperatures reaching into the 90s and above recently, County health officials are reminding the public to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses.

“Serious health problems can result from exposure to high temperatures, even if exposed for short periods,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Working or doing any type of physical activity outside on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun, or staying too long in an overheated place can lead to heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke, exhaustion, and cramps.”

To avoid heat-related problems, health officials recommend the following:

• Stay in an air-conditioned area during the hottest hours of the day

• Wear light, loose-fitting clothing

• Drink plenty of water (avoid alcohol and sugary drinks) and don’t wait until thirsty

• Take cool showers

• Never leave a child, elderly person, or pet unattended in a car

• Avoid unnecessary hard work or activities outside during the hottest part of the day

• Avoid unnecessary sun exposure and one should wear a wide-brim hat if they need to be in the sun

• Avoid using the oven to cook

• An extremely high body temperature (103 or higher), dizziness, nausea, confusion, and headache are signs of heat stroke or exhaustion.

If someone shows these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately and begin cooling the individual by:

• Moving them to a shaded area

• Spraying with cool water and fanning them

• Placing them in a cool shower if they are alert

• Monitoring the body temperature, and continue cooling efforts

• Do not give the victim fluids to drink

“Heat-related illness occurs when a person’s body temperature control system is overloaded,” Wooten added. “When this happens, the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down.”

Elderly people (65 years and older), infants and children, and people with chronic medical conditions are more susceptible to heat stress. Those with elderly neighbors or relatives should check on their wellbeing routinely.

People with no air conditioning in their homes can go to a public place such as a shopping mall, library or senior center (Cool Zones) to stay cool. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help a body stay cooler. Do not rely on electric fans for cooling if temperatures exceed 90 degrees.

Extreme heat incidents are also a reminder to reduce energy, while at the same time trying to stay cool. This is a perfect opportunity to also review and update home emergency kits for use in the event of rolling black outs.

The County operates the Cool Zones program and has designated more than 100 air-conditioned buildings as cooling centers. The sites are identified by a light blue Polar Bear Cool Zone logo. For more information, call (800) 510-2020.

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