Reminder to prepare for extreme heat

Reminder to prepare for extreme heat
Posted on 07/25/2018
Lane County Public Health is reminding community members to prepare for extreme heat. Temperatures are forecast to reach the mid to high 90s this week, giving rise to unique heat-related illnesses. Heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat this might not be enough. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.

“When we see the temperatures start creeping up to, and above, 100 degrees, routine activities and chores can become dangerous, especially for the very old, very young, and individuals with chronic illness,” said Lane County Chief Health Officer, Dr. Patrick Luedtke.

Rising temperatures can also affect air quality. Ground-level ozone and wildfire smoke may contribute pollution to our airshed. Please check the local air quality index at before rigorous outdoor activities. It is especially important for those with respiratory health conditions, like asthma or COPD, to be aware of worsening air quality.

Additional factors which can exacerbate the effect high temperatures can have on the body include:
  • High levels of humidity
  • Obesity
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Prescription drug use
  • Illicit drug use (e.g., cocaine and amphetamine)
  • Heart disease
  • Mental illness
  • Poor circulation
  • Pre-existing sunburn
  • Alcohol use
Lane County Public Health advises the following for avoiding heat-related illness:

Wear Appropriate Clothing: Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Stay Cool Indoors: Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible, especially from noon to about 7 p.m. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library (see here for a list of community cooling stations)—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.*

*Keep in mind: Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, they may not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours, and rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.

Pace Yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If you’re not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

Wear Sunscreen: 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. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

Do Not Leave Children or Pets in Cars: Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. While anyone left in a parked car is at risk, infants and children are especially at risk of heat stroke and dying. When traveling with children or pets, remember to do the following:
  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
  • To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
  • When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.
Avoid Hot and Heavy Meals: They add heat to your body!

Drink Plenty of Fluids:
Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
*Stay away from sugary and alcoholic drinks—these may actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps. In some persons caffeinated drinks may also increase the risk of heat-related illnesses. If you are not a regular user of caffeinated drinks, it may be best to avoid them during extreme heat events.

Replace Salt and Minerals: 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.

Keep Your Pets Hydrated: Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area. Check their bowls often as they will drink more on a hot day.

Check for Updates: Check local news or online weather information for extreme heat alerts and safety tips and to learn about any cooling shelters in your area.

Know the Signs: Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to treat them.

Use a Buddy System: When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Monitor Those at High Risk: Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others:
  • Infants and young children
  • People 65 years of age or older
  • People who are overweight
  • People who overexert during work or exercise
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation
Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children need much more frequent watching.