How to keep cool during a heat wave.

Summer heat can be dangerous and with the current heat wave, staying safe in the extreme temperatures can be a challenge. Heat-related illnesses like heat cramps, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke can come on quickly when temperatures reach the nineties. The following actions can help you keep cool during a heat wave:

· Stay hydrated – Drink more water than your thirst indicates. Sports drinks, like Gatorade or Powerade, and fruit juices, will help replace electrolytes that are lost through sweating. During heavy exercise, drink two-four glasses (16 – 32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

· Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine – These can act as diuretics and promote dehydration.

· Avoid eating protein-rich meals – These can increase metabolic heat and warm the body.

· Eliminate extra sources of heat – Incandescent light bulbs can generate unnecessary heat, as can computers or appliances left running. Eat fresh foods that do not require you to use the stove to prepare.

· Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing – Apply sunscreen before going outdoors and wear a wide brimmed hat that can provide some shade.

· Avoid heavy activity during the warmest part of the day – Schedule outdoor activity carefully and pace yourself. Try to visit buildings with air conditioning if the heat becomes unbearable. Libraries, shopping malls, and movie theaters can all be good places to cool off.

· Use water to cool off – Fill buckets or basins and soak your feet. Wet towels and bandannas can have a cooling effect when worn on the shoulders or head. Take cool showers or baths.

· Use box fans and ceiling fans to promote air circulation throughout your home if you don’t have air conditioning – Opening doors in the house and using box fans to push hot air outdoors can function as an ”exhaust” system and draw cooler evening air into the house.

· Make sure you keep your pets cool – Have plenty of water available and keep them out of the heat.

Finally, it is important to know the symptoms of heat-related distress. The major types of heat-related illnesses are:

Heat cramps – Typically occurs with a person who has been exercising or participating in other types of strenuous activity in the heat. Symptoms include painful muscle spasms in the arms, legs or abdomen. The body temperature is normal, and the skin feels moist and cool, but sweaty. Replenishing fluids is important.

Heat exhaustion – Typically occurs with elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment. A person with heat exhaustion may be thirsty, giddy, weak, uncoordinated nauseous and sweating profusely. The body temperature is usually normal, and the skin is cold and clammy. Replenishing fluids is important.

Heat stroke – This condition is serious and life-threatening, occurring when the body loses its ability to control its temperature. A person will develop a fever and usually has a body temperature above 104 F. Other symptoms may include confusion, combativeness, bizarre behavior, feeling faint, strong rapid pulse, dry flushed skin and lack of sweating. If a person has the symptoms of heat stroke, call 911 immediately.

Credit: EMU Health Services

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