Beat the Heat

Cool morning temperatures are fleeting as the sun climbs in the eastern sky. The mid-day sauna begins at 10 a.m. and stretches all through the long afternoon until the frogs and cicadas begin their nightly chorus as the sun sinks down below the pines; it is mid-summer in southeast Louisiana. Our typical summer weather is characterized by temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit and above for multiple days in a row, and when you factor in the humidity, the heat index can make it feel well above 100. Some like it hot, but these excessive temperatures can be dangerous.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when temperatures soar, everyone should take precautions against heat induced illnesses such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Keywords to remember are: Stay Cool, Stay Hydrated, and Stay Informed.

People who are most vulnerable to heat related illnesses include:

  • Infants and young children
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • People who are overweight
  • People who overexert during work or exercise
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications for conditions such as depression, insomnia, or poor circulation.

Children should be checked on frequently throughout the day, and the elderly should be looked in on at least twice daily. Older adults do not adjust to sudden changes in temperature as well as younger people, and they are more likely to have chronic health conditions that can affect how their body responds to heat. There is also a greater likelihood that they are taking medications that could alter their body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.

If you are the caregiver of an elderly person, ask yourself:

Are they drinking enough water?
Do they have an air conditioner?
Do they know how to keep cool?
Are they showing any signs of heat stress?

Words to live by in the heat: Stay Cool, Stay Hydrated, Stay Informed.

Stay Cool

-Stay in the air conditioning. If you don’t have air conditioning at home, go to a shopping mall, public library, or other public place, and stay cool there for as long as you can.

-Don’t rely on fans to cool you if the temperature is in the high 90s.

-Take cool showers or cool baths.

-Don’t use your stove or oven to cook; it will heat up your home.

-Avoid hot and heavy meals.

-Choose a buddy who will check on you, and you in turn, check on them.

Stay Hydrated

-Drink more water than usual, and don’t wait until you get thirsty to drink.

-Don’t drink sugary or alcoholic drinks. Water is an excellent choice, or sports drinks if you have been sweating heavily from exertion.

Stay Informed

-Check local news for weather alerts, health, and safety information.

-Seek medical help if you or someone you know has symptoms of heat-related illness.

Signs of heat stress:

Heat Stroke

What to Look For
High body temperature (103 degrees F or higher)
Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
Fast, strong pulse
Losing consciousness (passing out)

What To Do
Call 911-heat stroke is an emergency
Move the person to a cooler place
Lower temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
Do not give the person anything to drink

Heat Exhaustion

What to Look For
Heavy sweating
Cold, pale, and clammy skin
Fast, weak pulse
Nausea or vomiting
Muscle cramps
Tiredness or weakness
Fainting (passing out)

What To Do
Move to a cool place
Loosen your clothes
Use cool, wet cloths, or take a cool bath
Sip water

Seek medical help if:

You are throwing up
Your symptoms get worse
Symptoms last longer than an hour