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Hot Weather Continues - Stay Cool, Safe

Armen Hareyan's picture

With the extremely hot weather Vermont is experiencing, Vermont Emergency Management and the Vermont Department of Health are advising people to be cautious and to stay cool and safe. The National Weather Service is predicting a third straight day with temperatures in the 90s for much of the state.

While extreme heat can cause problems for anyone, people at greatest risk for heat-related illness include infants and children up to four years of age, people 65 years of age and older, people who are overweight, and people who are ill or on certain medications. Extra precautions should be taken to avoid problems during this period of extreme temperatures.

Some tips to follow during hot, humid weather:

* Slow down, avoid strenuous activity. Do not try to do too much on a hot day.

* Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect heat and sunlight and help maintain normal body temperature. Protect your face with a wide-brimmed hat.

* Drink plenty of water regularly and often, even if you do not feel thirsty. Regardless of your activity level, don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Don't drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar-these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.

* Eat well-balanced, light, regular meals. Avoid high protein foods that raise body heat.

* Stay indoors as much as possible.

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* If you do not have air conditioning, stay on your lowest floor, out of the sun. Electric fans do not cool the air, but they do help evaporate sweat, which cools your body. When the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, swimming or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.

* Places where you can get relief from the heat are air conditioned schools, libraries, theaters, shopping malls, and other community facilities that may offer refuge during the warmest times of the day.

* Cover windows that get morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.

* Avoid too much sunshine. Sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself. If you are outside, use sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating.

* Never leave children or pets alone in a closed or parked vehicle.

* Check on high-risk family, friends and neighbors. Visit adults at risk at least twice a day, such as anyone over the age 65 and over, people who have mental illness, and people with health conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure, and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

Tips on treating heat-related ailments:

* Heat Cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. They usually involve the abdominal muscles or legs and are caused by loss of water due to heavy sweating. Treatment includes getting the person to a cooler place to rest in a comfortable position. Give the person a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes.

* Heat Exhaustion typically occurs when people over-exert themselves in a warm, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to vital organs to decrease, resulting in a form of mild shock. The skin will be cool and moist, appearing either pale or flushed. The person may have headache and/or experience nausea. There may also be dizziness. It is important to treat the person promptly, so the condition does not intensify into Heat Stroke. Get the person to a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, such as towels or sheets. If the person is conscious, supply a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes, making sure the person drinks slowly. Let the person rest in a comfortable position, and watch carefully for changes in his or her condition.

* Heat Stroke is the most serious heat emergency. It is life threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, shuts down. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. The person will have hot, red skin, with changes of consciousness. Their pulse will be rapid, but weak and they will experience rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can rise to 105F. If the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise, skin may be wet; otherwise it will feel dry. A person suffering from Heat Stroke needs immediate assistance. Call 911 and move the person to a cooler place. Immerse in a cool bath or wrap in wet sheets. Watch for breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool the body. Do not put the person in an ice bath, which is inefficient and could be dangerous. If the victim refuses water, is vomiting, or there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give anything to eat or drink.