Protecting Vulnerable Groups from Extreme Heat
Posted: June 28, 2021
This week, the Inland Northwest will experience record-breaking heat, as temperatures reach a scorching 110 degrees or higher. Extreme heat, which is defined as summertime temperatures that are much hotter and/or humid than average, is responsible for approximately 618 deaths in the US every year. That is why is it especially important that those over age 65 and/or those with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, mental illness, poor blood circulation, and obesity take extra precautions to protect against heat-related illness. Here are some helpful suggestions from the CDC, as we prepare for this week’s unprecedented heat wave.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
- Do not rely on a fan as your main cooling source when it’s really hot outside. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90/100s, they will not prevent heat-related illness.
- Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.
- Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
- Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours.
- A sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out.
- Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- Warning: If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
- Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
- If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.
- Check your local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips and to learn about any cooling shelters in your area.
- Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-related illness like muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting.
- Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.