Ten Steps to Prevent Heat-related Illnesses
Temperatures here in Arkansas have been have been record setting high the past few days. Saturday the temperature in Little Rock reached a high of 99. The old record was 96 set in 1977.
The increased temperatures will bring heat related illness and deaths as in past years. Each year deaths occur as children are left in the vehicle, either forgotten or “just making a quick purchase in the store.” Last year 49 children died from vehicular heat stroke deaths. There were 33 in 2009.
One of our local weathermen demonstrated how quickly the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rise. He did this by simply pulling his car out of the garage at 1:05 PM and parking it in direct sunlight. The initial temperature inside the car was 79 degrees. After just 30 minutes the temperature was 142 degrees.
Kids and Cars reports almost 90% of children who died of heatstroke in cars from 1998 through 2009 were 3 years old or younger.
Extreme heat is responsible for more deaths in the United States than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. According to NOAA, there were 136 heat related deaths in 2010. The CDC reports excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States from 1979-2003. In 2001, 300 deaths were caused by excessive heat exposure.
Children, the elderly, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are the ones most at risk from heat related illness and death, but anyone can be affected if precautions are not taken.
Ten steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths during hot weather:
- Stay indoors as much as possible. Use a fan or air conditioning.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Don't just carry water or juice with you. Drink it, even if you don't feel thirsty.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate the body.
- If you are sweating, you are losing fluids and salts. Consider drinking one 8-oz Gatorade for every 1-3 8-oz water.
- Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing and use a hat or umbrella.
- Use sunscreen. SPF 30 or higher.
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully. If you must do something physically demanding (work or football/band practice), try to do it during the coolest part of the day (between 4 am and 7 am).
- Pace yourself. Take regular breaks when engaging in physical activity on warm/hot days. Take time out to find a cool place (shade tree, indoors, lake).
- Use a buddy system. Monitor people at high risk.
- Never leave an infant, child, or dog in a car, even for a few minutes.
Symptoms of heat-related illness include muscle and abdominal cramps, heavy (or worse – have stopped) sweating, headache, dizziness, and nausea / vomiting.
Related article: Arkansas Reports First Heat-Related Death of 2010