The Livingston County Health Center is providing tips for residents hoping to beat the heat this weekend. Click to hear KMZU’s Jillian Molloy talk with Public Information Supervisor Ann Burchett.

Ann Burchett

Press Release from the Livingston County Health Center:

June 29, 2011:  Fourth of July weekend is around the corner, and many will be getting together over the weekend to celebrate.  The Livingston County Health Center would like to encourage residents to be aware of the Excessive Heat Watch for the county through Saturday evening.

An excessive heat watch means a prolonged period of hot temperatures is expected. The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity will create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are possible.  Such extreme heat conditions will lead to an increased risk of heat related stress and illnesses.

Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable yet annually many people succumb to extreme heat. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.

Because heat-related deaths are preventable, people need to be aware of who is at greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or death. The elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. 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.

The best defense against a heat related illness is prevention. Here are some prevention tips:

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 aged 65 or older

People who have a mental illness

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

Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

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).

All services of the health center are provided on a non-discriminatory basis.

Source: Centers for Disease Control