“It’s important to remember that everybody is at risk for heat-related illness,” said Chadwick Miller, M.D., M.S., associate professor, Department of Emergency Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “While we know that young children and older adults are at higher risk for heat illness, we should also be reminded that even people in outstanding physical condition can also be at risk.”
To avoid these potentially serious medical problems, the Centers for Disease Control and American Red Cross recommend the following safety tips:
- Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or to use an umbrella.
- Drink water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar. These actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.
- Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
- Stay indoors when possible. If air-conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine. Remember that electric fans do not cool, they simply circulate the air. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
- Be a good neighbor. During heat waves, check in on elderly residents in your neighborhood and those who do not have air conditioning.
- NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
- Be aware of excessive heat watches and warnings. The National Weather Service will announce extreme heat by stating:
- Excessive Heat Outlook Heads up! Extreme heat is possible three to five days from now.
- Excessive Heat Watch Watch out! Extreme heat is expected within the next two to three days.
- Excessive Heat Warning Warning! Extreme heat will occur today or tomorrow.
James Winslow, M.D., Emergency Medicine, would also like to remind people that those who do not normally work outside might be just as vulnerable to the heat as children and older adults since they are less accustomed to it. Remember to take several breaks and drink plenty of water.
In case of a heat-related emergency, get the individual to a cooler place and seek medical care by immediately calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency number for help.