Washington County Public Health: Avoid Heat-related Illnesses This Summer Such as heat cramps, heat stroke and heat exhaustion
By County Staff
Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and claiming more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. The most vulnerable individuals are those who work or exercise outdoors, adults over 65, infants and children under four, the homeless or poor, and people with chronic medical conditions.
“Find a place to stay cool. Consider visiting a library or indoor shopping mall to get away from the heat,” says Deputy Health Officer Dr. Christina Baumann. “Older adults can be especially vulnerable and are encouraged to visit their local senior center if they don’t have air conditioning at home.”
Take these precautions:
- Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location as much as possible.
- Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device when it is very hot.
- Avoid strenuous activities in the heat of the day.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Take cool showers or baths to lower your body temperature.
- Don’t use your stove, oven, washer or dryer on hot days.
- Eat small, light meals.
- Close your blinds and curtains to keep sunlight out.
- If the temperature falls at night, open your windows to let the cool air in.
- Check your local news for extreme heat warnings and safety tips.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially while working or exercising outside.
- Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar.
Pets: Remember that pets are part of the family, too. “Dogs have more trouble handling hot weather than humans do, so watch them carefully,” says Deborah Wood, manager of Washington County Animal Services and the Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter. Signs that your pet is headed toward medical trouble include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue. If you see these signs, contact your veterinarian’s office. Dogs with flat faces (such as pugs and bulldogs) need special care during hot weather and can quickly go into heat stroke if allowed to become too warm.
Never Leave Pets in Hot Cars: Leaving pets in cars when temperatures approach 100 degrees can result in injury or death in a matter of minutes. If you see a pet in a hot car that appears lethargic, unable to move or sick, it could be a medical emergency. “Don’t break into the car. Instead, call 911 right away,” says Wood. “The police will either respond directly or coordinate with Animal Services to send help.” If an animal suffers medical problems as a result of being left in a hot car, its owner may face animal neglect charges.
For up-to-date information on cooling centers, visit www.co.washington.or.us/HHS/hot-weather.cfm.