Precautions for heat related illnesses urged this holiday weekend

With temperatures expected to soar to dangerous heights during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and high school graduation weekend, Southwest Health District is offering recommendations to avoid heat-related illness.

“Many of us are hoping to enjoy outdoor activities this weekend, but with 100-degree weather, we need take appropriate precautions,” said Southwest District Health Director Dr. Charles Ruis. “The following self-help measures are not a substitute for medical care but may help you recognize and respond promptly to symptoms of extreme heat so you can stay safe and healthy.”

His recommendations are:

Drink more fluids. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Don’t wait until you are active.

Avoid liquids that contain alcohol or a lot of sugar, since they cause you to lose more body fluid. Avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause cramps.

Stay indoors in an air-conditioned place if possible. If your home isn’t air conditioned, spend time at a library, mall or other air-conditioned facility. During heat waves, check with the Emergency Management Agency or Public Health to see if heat-relief shelters are available.

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.

Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature reaches the high 90s, fans alone may not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or going to an air-conditioned area is a better way to cool off.

“Although anyone can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others,” Ruis said. “Check regularly on infants and young children, people 65 and older, people who have a mental illness and those who are physically ill — especially those with heart disease or high blood pressure.”

If you must be out in the heat, he added:

Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour, unless fluids are restricted for medical reasons.

Try to rest often in shady areas.

Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and 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.

Ruis also reminded residents that heat stroke, in which the body is no longer able to cool itself, is a medical emergency.

Symptoms of heat-stroke include high temperature (above 103 degrees F., orally), red, hot and dry skin with no sweating, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness.

“If these symptoms occur, call 9-1-1 immediately,” said Ruis. “Meanwhile, get the victim out of the sun, cool the victim with whatever means are available, and if emergency personnel are delayed, call them for additional instructions. Heat stroke is a life-and-death emergency.”

More information is available at www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org and at http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.asp.

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