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June 27th, 2012

Avoid heat-related illness this summer with a few simple tips



GOSHEN – With temperatures predicted to rise near100 degrees Fahrenheit over the next few days, it’s important to take steps to avoid heat-related illnesses warn Orange County Executive Edward A. Diana and Dr. Jean Hudson, Orange County Commissioner of Health.

“Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury and even death if not treated, but there are simple precautions that can be taken to prevent such issues,” said County Executive Diana. “During periods of extreme heat it’s critical that we take time to be a good neighbor and check on those who are elderly, sick, or have young children at home.”

Heat stroke (or sun stroke) is the most severe form of heat-related illness and causes several hundred deaths in the United States each year. It occurs when a person’s body temperature exceeds 105 degrees Fahrenheit and is often accompanied by confusion and can progress to coma and death unless treated by rapidly lowering the body temperature.

“If you believe someone has heat stroke, call for emergency medical treatment or have the person taken to the hospital immediately,” warns Dr. Hudson.

Other less severe forms of heat-related illness are heat exhaustion and heat cramps. Heat exhaustion occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid location where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Heat exhaustion is characterized by cold, pale, clammy skin, and may include fainting and vomiting.

To cope with the predicted heat this week Dr. Hudson recommends that residents consider locating cool places to spend time during the heat of the day. These may include a mall or other shopping location, libraries, community recreation centers, and other public buildings.

The following steps offered by Dr. Hudson and the Orange County Department of Health will help people stay cool and enjoy summer:

• Drink more fluids. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate you.

• Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect some of the sun’s energy. It’s also a good idea to wear a wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella and a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.

• Eat small meals and eat more often. Do not eat a lot of food high in protein, which increases metabolic heat.

• Slow down. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4 and 7 AM.

• When temperatures are extreme, stay indoors, ideally in an air-conditioned place.

• Never leave anyone - a person or animal - in a parked vehicle.

While anyone, at any time can be prone to heat-related illness, some are at greater risk than others. People age 65 or older are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and resulting health complications during periods of high temperatures and humidity. Individuals with chronic respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, may also find their conditions worsen during periods these times.

Infants and young children are also at increased risk for complications in extreme heat. To help cope during hot, humid conditions, physical activity should be reduced and outdoor play should be before 10 AM and after 2 PM to avoid the hottest sun of the day.

Lastly, it’s important to remember our furry family members when temperatures start to soar. If possible, animals should be kept indoors in a cool location. If they must be left outside, be sure to leave them in a shady location with plenty of water. Never leave an animal in a closed vehicle when the weather is warm.

For more information on heat-related illnesses, call the Orange County Department of Health at 291-2332.

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