Nashville, TN – Since participation in outdoor activities this Fourth of July likely means encountering extreme heat, the state Department of Health calls on Tennesseans to use simple tips to reduce the risk of heat-related illness this holiday weekend and throughout the summer.
“I hope you enjoy activities this July 4th weekend, but I also urge you to practice good judgment and don’t overdo it,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “Never leave anyone in a closed, parked car; drink plenty of water; wear light-colored clothing; and take advantage of the shade whenever possible. I suggest you even consider going indoors during the hottest part of the day and limit or completely avoid consumption of sugary and alcoholic beverages.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers common sense steps to avoid preventable heat-related illnesses.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Remember to consume non-alcoholic, low-sugar drinks in hot weather.
- Replace salt and minerals. Heavy sweating can deplete your body’s salt and minerals. Non-alcoholic drinks, like sports drinks, can help you replenish these reserves.
- Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, as well as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection. Wear SPF 15 or higher sunblock every day.
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully. Try to limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours with rest breaks in shady areas, if available. UV rays are strongest and do the most damage during midday hours.
- Pace yourself. If you are unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and increase effort gradually. If your heart is pounding or you are gasping for breath, stop the activity and rest in a cool, shady area.
- Stay cool indoors. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the mall or library to cool off. Cool showers or baths, and keeping your stove and oven off are other ways to cool down inside.
- Use the buddy system. Partner with a friend and watch each other for signs of heat-related illness. Senior citizens are more susceptible, so if you know someone over age 65, check on him or her over the phone twice a day.
Temperatures 90 degrees Fahrenheit and above raise the risk for heat-related illnesses like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash. Signs of heat-related illness include dizziness, heavy sweating, muscle cramps, rapid heart beat, nausea, headaches and cold/clammy skin.
The Tennessee Department of Health reminds the public it is important to protect the very young and the elderly, who are at greater risk for health problems caused by extreme heat. People with chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and lung disease are also at an increased risk of heat-related illnesses.
Heat stroke is the most life-threatening heat-related illness. Each year, about 400 people nationwide die from heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature, which rises quickly without the ability to cool down. If emergency treatment is not provided, heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability. Symptoms include body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit; red, hot and dry skin without sweating; rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion and loss of consciousness.
Call for immediate medical help if you believe you are or another person is experiencing heat stroke. Do not give the victim any fluids to drink. While waiting on emergency assistance, get the victim to a shady area, cool him or her rapidly using cool water and monitor body temperature until it reaches 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more information about heat-related illnesses, including prevention and treatment tips, visit the CDC’s Extreme Heat Safety website at http://bit.ly/mJQw5V.