Take precautions during excessive heat

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As the heat indices have climbed up to the triple digits this week, it’s important to keep heat safety top of mind this time of year in order to prevent heat-related illness. Prevention of heat-related illness is key this time of year. Particularly vulnerable populations are the very young and the elderly. Special attention should be paid to these groups with regard to efforts at prevention of heat stroke.

When it’s hot or humid, remember the following tips:

• Try not to be too active and take frequent breaks during exercise.

• Drink enough fluids, such as water or sports drinks, so you do not feel thirsty. Do not force fluids to the point of feeling uncomfortable. This can be just as harmful as well.

• Do any exercise early in the day before it gets too hot outside.

• Wear loose, lightweight clothes. Don’t wear excessive layers.

• Avoid being in a hot car. Remember children in car seats in the backseat. Reports of avoidable deaths related to children being forgotten in the backseat are tragic and devastating to families. Develop a way to be reminded of child passengers in the back seat. Some caregivers choose to remind themselves of their precious cargo in the backseat by taking one of their shoes off before they get into the drivers’ seat and placing it in the backseat with the child so as to remember when they exit the car.

Watch for symptoms of heat illness:

• Painful muscle cramps

• Dizziness

• Nausea or vomiting

• Excessive thirst

• Excessive fatigue

If you experience signs of heat illness, you should cool your body down right away. To cool your body you can:

• Spray yourself with cool water or go into an air-conditioned building or car.

• Take a cool shower or bath.

• Drink water or a sports drink. Do not have a drink with alcohol or caffeine.

• Take off any extra clothing you are wearing.

• Put a cold pack or cool cloth on your neck or armpits.

If you or someone else is experiencing a heat-related illness, you should:

• Call 911 immediately.

• Stay with the person until emergency medical personnel arrive.

• Move them to a shaded, cool area and remove any heavy, excess clothing.

• Cool them down quickly with cold water, an ice bath or cold wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits and groin area.

• Circulate air around the person to speed up the cooling.

For more information about heat safety, visit www.weather.gov/safety/heat.

Meredith Sutton, RN, is the director of emergency services at Wilson Medical Center and clinical director of Behavioral Health Services.