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Preventing heat related illness

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Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014 11:00 am

July has arrived in Polk County and the temperatures continue to reach into the upper 80s and lower 90s.

It is the time of year when many people are outside enjoying their “moments of fun in the sun.” This can also be a time when more individuals suffer heat related illness.

The best defense is prevention, according to the Centers From Disease Control and national health professionals.

Recommendations are:

• Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

• 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.

• Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

• Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will 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.

• Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

• Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.

Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:

Infants and young children

People who have a mental illness

Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure

If you must be out in the heat:

• Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

• Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour.

A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage. Remember the warning in the first “tip” (above), too.

• Try to rest often in shady areas.

• Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself:

You can follow these prevention tips to protect yourself from heat-related stress:

• Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages. (If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Also, avoid extremely cold liquids because they can cause cramps.)

• Rest.

• Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.

• If possible, seek an air-conditioned environment. (If you don’t have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned shopping mall or public library to cool off.)

• Wear lightweight clothing.

• If possible, remain indoors in the heat of the day.

• Do not engage in strenuous activities.

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