With the hot, hot weather not going away any time soon, there are plenty of tricks to keeping cool. Children up to age 4, people taking certain medications, persons with disabilities, and seniors 5 and over are particularly less able to cope with hotter weather and should be monitored throughout the day for signs of heat-related illness.
* Regardless of your activity level, drink more fluids, especially water, and more than you think you need. Your body needs water for many crucial functions and dehydration can lead to serious health effects.
* Make sure clothing is lightweight and comfortable and, if you’re planning to be outdoors, avoid the hottest parts of the day by scheduling activities during cooler hours (generally mornings and evenings). Also, be sure to wear a hat and use sunscreen because sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself.
* Do not rely only on electric fans during a heat wave. When the temperature is in the 90s or above, a fan will not prevent heat-related illness. A cool shower or bath is a better way to beat the heat and keep body temperatures at safer levels.
* Use common sense. Avoid hot meals and heavy, spicy foods when the weather gets hot. Eat smaller meals more often.
* Never leave infants, children, or pets unattended in your vehicle, not even for a moment.
* If you, or someone you know, may be at risk for heat-related illness, talk to a doctor or pharmacist.
* Do not over exert. Stay cool indoors by turning on an air conditioner or evaporative cooling system. If you do not have access to air conditioned space at home, visit a local shopping mall, senior center, public library, community center, or other facility that is open to the public.
Mountain Area cooling centers are:
* Coarsegold Community Center, 35540 Highway 41, Coarsegold, (559) 683-7953, open 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., Monday - Friday
* Yosemite Lakes Park Clubhouse, 30250 Yosemite Springs Parkway, Coarsegold, (559) 658-7466, open 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., all week
* Sierra Senior Center, 49111 Cinder Lane, Oakhurst, (559) 658-2200, open 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., Monday - Friday, and 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., first three Saturdays of the month
* Grace Community Church, 56442 Road 200, North Fork, (559) 877-2346, open 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., Monday - Friday
For those working outdoors, there are special precautions during excessive heat conditions, and must follow California’s heat illness prevention regulations. Employees working in outdoor places of employment or in other areas at times when the environmental risk factors are present, are at risk of developing heat illnesses if they do not protect themselves appropriately. Heat illnesses are serious medical conditions resulting from the body’s inability to cope with a particular heat load.
Risk factors for heat illness
Environmental: the working conditions that create the possibility that heat illness could occur, including air temperature, relative humidity, radiant heat from the sun or other sources, conductive heat, air movement, workload severity and duration, protective clothing and personal protective equipment being worn.
Personal: factors such as an individual’s age, degree of acclimatization (the temporary adaptation of the body to work in the heat that occurs gradually when a person is exposed to it), health, water consumption, alcohol consumption, caffeine consumption, and use of prescription medication that affects the body’s water retention or other physiological response to heat.
Types of heat illnesses
Heat cramps: painful muscle spasms caused by heavy sweating. A victim of heat cramps should drink an electrolyte solution, such as Gatorade or a similar beverage used by athletes to restore potassium and salt. Seek medical attention in the case of severe cramping.
Heat exhaustion: results from the loss of fluid from sweating and not drinking enough replacement fluids. The victim still sweats but experiences extreme weakness or fatigue, giddiness, nausea, or headache. The skin is clammy and moist, while body temperatures are normal or slightly elevated. A victim of heat exhaustion should rest in a cool place and drink water or an electrolyte solution, such as Gatorade or a similar beverage used by athletes to restore potassium and salt. Severe cases, in which the victim vomits or loses consciousness, may require longer treatment under medical supervision.
Heat stroke: caused by the body’s failure to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer release excess heat. Signs include: mental confusion, delirium, loss of consciousness, or coma, body temperature of 106 degrees or higher, and hot dry skin that may be red, mottled, or bluish. Prompt first aid can prevent permanent injury to the brain and other vital organs. While waiting for medical help, the victim should be moved to a cool area. The victims clothing should be soaked with cool water and he or she should be fanned vigorously to increase cooling.
Precautions to prevent heat illnesses
Condition yourself for working in hot environments. Allow your body time to get acclimated to the heat.
When working outside in the heat it is recommended that you drink cool, fresh water throughout the day (four 8-oz cups per hour). Avoid beverages that contain alcohol or caffeine. Both dehydrate the body.
If you are working outside in the heat it is recommended to move to a cooler, shaded area during breaks.
If you start to overheat while working, immediately move to a cooler place, find shade, and rest.
Reporting Heat Illnesses
Immediately report to your supervisor if you think you or a co-worker is getting sick from the heat. Your supervisor will make arrangements for appropriate medical care.
Call 911 for serious and/or life threatening injuries/illnesses. While waiting for medical help, the victim of heat illness should move to a cool, shaded area.