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Beating the Heat!

With the entire globe experiencing erratic temperatures, and many areas in the midst of record high heat waves, it’s never been more important to take precautions during these hot times. Heat-related illness and death are preventable, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 600 people die each year from exactly this and many more are sickened.

There are two main things that make cooling down more difficult when it’s hot: high humidity and personal factors such as age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.  People 65 and older, children younger than two, and people with chronic diseases or mental illness are at the highest risk. 

Questions you need to ask if you or someone you care for are in the high risk groups are:

  • Are they drinking enough water?

  • Do they have access to air conditioning?

  • Do they need help keeping cool?

The best ways to prevent heat-related illness and death are the following:

  1. Stay in air conditioning. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, consider spending time in public places that are air conditioned. The local health department may also have suggestions for places or shelters that can provide a cool environment temporarily. Run the air conditioning in the car if possible also.

  2. Do not rely on a fan as the main cooling method during a heat wave.

  3. Drink more water than usual and be sure to drink even if you’re not thirsty.

  4. Keep the stove and oven off to keep the house cooler during an extreme heat event.

  5. Even young, healthy individuals are at risk of heat-related illnesses. Try to limit outdoor activities, especially in the midday when the sun is hottest. Be sure to wear and reapply sunscreen. Pace activities. Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more. (notice a theme here?) Muscle cramping may be an early sign of heat-related illness. Also, wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.

  6. In addition to the tips above, showering or bathing can be a great way to cool down. Be sure to check on vulnerable friends, family, and neighbors. Never leave children or pets in cars. 

Here’s hoping you enjoy the last weeks of heat before the cold arrives by staying healthy.

Information in this article adapted from cdc.gov.


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