Stay Cool, Stay Safe
There are a number of simple things you can do to avoid the dangers of heat stress:
- Stay in a cool place. If your home does not have air conditioning, spend as much time as possible in a public air-conditioned place, such as a shopping mall, library, church, movie theater or senior center.
- Take cool showers and let the air dry you.
- Use a fan to draw cool air into your home at night and provide air circulation during the day.
- Keep drapes closed when windows are in direct sunlight.
- Install window locks so that your windows can be left open for ventilation but kept secure against intruders.
- Dress for coolness. Wear cotton clothing that is lightweight, loose fitting and light-colored. If you have to be in the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella.
- Take it easy. On hot, humid days, avoid prolonged, strenuous outdoor activity such as gardening, lawn mowing, exercise or recreational activity.
- Eat a well-balanced diet, avoiding hot and heavy meals. Cook only during the cooler hours of the day.
- Drink liquids. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Avoid alcohol and drinks that contain caffeine and salt. If you have a medical problem with body water balance, check with your doctor.
- Be careful with salt. Check with your doctor before adding salt to your diet or taking salt tablets.
- Stay in regular touch with a friend or family member who can help you get assistance if you develop a heat-related problem.
Facts about Heat-Related Illness
Just as extreme cold temperatures can cause serious health problems, hot weather can lead to heat-related illnesses, especially for the elderly, young children and people with chronic illnesses. Prolonged temperatures of 90° F, accompanied by high humidity, can cause the body’s temperature to rise and place a strain on the heart and blood vessels – the most important parts of the body’s natural cooling system. This heat stress can result in serious illness, heart failure or a stroke.
Certain physical conditions can have an effect on the body’s cooling system and leave a person open to heat stroke. These include:
- Heart problems
- Poor circulation
- A previous stroke
- Infection or fever
- Skin disease
- Being overweight
- Severe sunburn
Prescription drugs – such as those for high blood pressure, depression and poor circulation – can interfere with the body’s temperature control system, making a person especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. Living where there is poor ventilation or a lot of concrete or asphalt or a dense concentration of buildings makes people more likely to experience the effects of heat stress.
Symptoms of Heat Stress
Hot and humid weather leaves most people feeling uncomfortable, often with a loss of energy and appetite. These are mild signs of heat stress, and unless they worsen or last for many days, there is no need to become overly concerned. There are other, more serious signs that heat stress might become a threat to health. A person experiencing any of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Throbbing headache
- Dry skin (no sweating)
- Chest pain
- Overwhelming weakness
- Problems with breathing