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NOAA’s Recommendations for Staying Healthy in the Heat

Posted on News September 29, 2010 by Terry Jones

NOAA recently released an article on their website pertaining to staying healthy in the summer heat. Among those states famous for its warm weather is obviously Florida. Taking the necessary steps to avoid heat related illness is very important, but often overlooked.

Eli Jacks, the chief of fire and public weather services with the National Weather Service at NOAA, says, according to the NOAA.org article, that heat on average kills 1,500 people a year, which is “more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning, or any other weather event combined.” He calls heat, “a dangerous weather condition for which people should prepare.”

NOAA notes that certain target populations should be especially careful during extreme heat including individuals who live in cities and in the upper floors of tall buildings, as well as those in areas prone to heat. People with certain health conditions, who have trouble getting around, young people and the elderly are also considered at higher risk.

Fortunately, NOAA outlines four steps to beat the heat. Step 1 urges everybody to stay informed and to stay alert. Be aware of heat advisories or warnings in your area. Local news and radio stations and NOAA.org are good sources of information. Excessive heat warnings are issued by NOAA when weather conditions may pose “an imminent threat to life”, and heat advisories when weather conditions may lead to “significant discomfort or inconvenience”, and may become life-threatening if caution is not taken.

Step 2 covers recommended precautions such as getting a checkup with your physician. If you have any health conditions that may worsen in hot weather, it is important to know so you can take extra precaution. They also recommend going to cool indoor establishments on those extra hot days. Visiting the library, aquarium or museum is recommended, but you may also consider going to a movie. NOAA also recommends having your air conditioner serviced and using fans to help cool the house. All Year Cooling offers air conditioner service and preventative maintenance agreements to help make sure that your air conditioner is kept in good working order.

In Step 3, NOAA recommends identifying the do’s and don’ts for hot weather, and recognizing the signs of heat illness. First the do’s: take it easy and limit strenuous activity. Mow the lawn and work in the garden early morning or evening instead of midday.”; wear light weight clothing that is lightly-colored; consume plenty of water and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as light, easy to digest food; when outdoors for an extended period, locate shade; spend more time in the air conditioning; check in on elderly neighbors and relatives; take cool baths or showers and when outdoors, mist your face or take dips in the pool or ocean; use high SPF sunscreen, applying frequently; seek medical attention right away if you experience any of the symptoms of heat illness. Symptoms are outlined below.

Now the don’ts: do not leave at-risk individuals (children, the elderly or pets) in the car for any period of time, even if it’s just a minute; do not stay in the sun for an extended period of time; do not take salt tablets, unless of course you are instructed by a physician; do not drink alcoholic beverages.

Step 4 encourages individuals to repeat steps 1 to 3 and always stay alert throughout the hot summer. You may read the article in its entirety by clicking HERE.

The following are heat-related illnesses, their symptoms and treatments as taken from the NOAA.org article linked above:

Heat Cramps

Symptoms: Painful muscle cramps and spasms, usually in the legs and abdomen. Heavy sweating.

Treatment: Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water, if nausea occurs, discontinue water intake. Consult with a clinician or physician if individual has fluid restrictions (e.g., dialysis patients).

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms: Heavy sweating, weakness, cool skin, pale and clammy. Weak pulse. Normal temperature possible. Possible muscle cramps, dizziness, fainting, nausea and vomiting.

Treatment: Move individual out of sun, lay him or her down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move individual to air conditioned room. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water intake. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention. Consult with a clinician or physician if individual has fluid restrictions (e.g., dialysis patients).

Heat Stroke

Symptoms: Alerted mental state. Possible throbbing headache, confusion, nausea and dizziness. High body temperature (106 degrees or higher). Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness. Skin may be hot and dry, or patient may be sweating. Sweating likely especially if patient was previously involved in vigorous activity.

Treatment: Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the individual to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. Move individual to a cooler, preferably air conditioned, environment. Reduce body temperature with a water mister, fan or sponging. Use air conditioners. Use fans if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids.

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