Mountain Family column: Stay cool to prevent getting sick from high temperatures
It’s been baking hot in the Roaring and Eagle River valleys this summer. It’s important to take steps to keep from getting too hot, because summer heat can be dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) heat can make you sick when your body can’t cool off enough to avoid heat-related illnesses.
In fact, high temperatures kill hundreds of people annually. Extreme heat causes more than 600 deaths each year, even though heat-related deaths and illness are preventable. Here’s how to stay cool:
Remain hydrated: Keep in mind that when there’s high humidity, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly, which keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.
Personal factors affect how easily you can stay cool or get overheated. Those factors include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn and prescription drug and alcohol use can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather.
For example, those who are at highest risk include people 65 and older, children younger than 2, and people with chronic diseases or mental illness.
Here are ways folks who are more at-risk can prevent illness or death:
• Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. Contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
• Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned, and using air conditioning in vehicles.
• Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.
• Drink more water than usual, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
• Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
• Don’t use the stove or oven to cook — it will make you and your house hotter.
Even young and healthy people can get sick from the heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather:
• Limit outdoor activity, especially midday when the sun is hottest.
• Wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package.
• Pace activity. Start activities slow and pick up the pace gradually.
• Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more. Muscle cramping may be an early sign of heat-related illness.
• Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
If you play a sport that practices during hot weather, protect yourself and look out for your teammates:
• Schedule workouts and practices earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.
• Monitor a teammate’s condition, and have someone do the same for you.
• Seek medical care immediately if you or a teammate has symptoms of heat-related illness.
• Learn more about how to protect young athletes from heat-related illness by taking a CDC course.
If people depend on you for care, be sure to closely monitor their health and ask these questions:
• Are they drinking enough water?
• Do they have access to air conditioning?
• Do they need help keeping cool?
Everyone should take these steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths during hot weather:
• Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location as much as possible.