Summer is well under way and that means one thing in Texas, it is hot. In Denton County, the heat is a major concern for some of our residents. The elderly, the very young, people with chronic diseases and those without access to air conditioning are the most likely to suffer from the extreme heat. So far in 2010, Denton County has had one diagnosed heat death; therefore, we encourage all residents to pay particular attention to the precautions to prevent any heat-related illnesses and deaths.
Staying in an air conditioned area, either at home or in a public place, such as a mall, library or recreation center, is the most effective way to combat heat. If air conditioning is not available, open the windows, pull the shades down to keep out the sun and use cross-ventilation and fans to cool.
Symptoms of heat illness include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, nausea, weak but rapid pulse and headaches. People with these symptoms should find well ventilated shade and drink water slowly.
If fluids are not replaced soon enough, heat stroke can follow causing extremely high body temperatures, red and dry skin, rapid pulse, confusion, brain damage, loss of consciousness and death. To help a person showing severe symptoms, get the victim into the shade, call for emergency medical services and start cooling the person immediately with cool water or fanning.
Children are especially vulnerable to dehydration. They need to drink fluids frequently, especially water, and wear light colored, loose fitting clothes. Check on children often, especially if they are playing outside in high temperatures.
Other important heat precautions include:
• Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle in hot weather, even for a short time.
• Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid drinks with alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink something. Start drinking fluids at least 30 minutes before going outside.
• Plan strenuous outdoor activity for early morning or evening when the temperature is lower. Remember to use insect repellent because mosquitoes are most active during the early morning and evening.
• Take frequent breaks when working outside.
• Wear sunscreen SPF 15 or higher, wide-brimmed hats and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
• Eat small, well balanced meals more frequently.
• Dress infants and children in cool, loose-fitting clothing. Shade their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella.
• Check frequently on the elderly, the ill and others who may need help.
• Check with a health care provider about the effects of sun and heat when taking prescription medication, especially diuretics or antihistamines.
Prevention is the best defense against heat-related illness. Staying cool, drinking plenty of fluids, wearing cool clothing and monitoring outdoor activities are essential to staying healthy in the hot, Texas weather.