As if on schedule, almost exactly a year out from 2016, soaring temperatures along with humid conditions, will bring heat index to dangerous levels. The Harford County Health Department warns residents to be prepared, use common sense and follow a few simple recommendations in hot weather over the next several days, and throughout the summer months.
Harford County Health Officer Dr. Russell Moy reminds the public about the seriousness of heat illnesses, advising residents to take measures to prevent potentially deadly heat illnesses. “Individuals of all ages must be exceptionally careful when engaging in outdoor activities or even when exposed for extended periods of time to hot indoor environments. Prolonged exposure to hot and humid weather conditions can result in potentially life-threatening heat-related illnesses and injuries. Persons who are exposed to excessive heat for any length of time, whether indoors or out-of-doors, must know risks and take precautions.”
Basic strategies are key to avoiding heat illness. Limit exposure to excessive heat, limit activity, dress accordingly in lighter weight clothing, and stay hydrated by drinking more non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids than usual.
Heat illness takes many forms, including heat fatigue, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after exercising in the heat), heat cramps, heat exhaustion or the most serious, heat stroke. Heat stroke, is an advanced form of heat stress that occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and unable to control its temperature. Someone with a body temperature above 104 degrees is likely suffering from heat stroke and may have symptoms of confusion, combativeness, strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry flushed skin, faintness, staggering, possible delirium or coma. Seek immediate medical attention for a person with any of these symptoms, especially an older adult.
Risk for heat illness combines air temperature and humidity factors along with an individual’s general health and lifestyle. Health-related factors that may increase risk include:
Being considerably overweight or underweight
Drinking alcoholic beverages
Age-related changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands
Heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever
High blood pressure or other conditions that require changes in diet. For example, people on
salt-restricted diets may be at an increased risk. Salt pills should not be used without first
consulting a doctor.
The inability to perspire, caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and
certain heart and blood pressure drugs. Although it is important to continue taking prescribed
medication Taking several medications may increase risk and it is important discuss possible
problems with your health care provider.
Additional lifestyle factors that also can increase risk include extremely hot living accommodations
(without cooling and/or adequate ventilation), lack of transportation, visiting overcrowded places and not
understanding how to respond to changing weather conditions. Individuals at special risk should stay
indoors on particularly hot and humid days, especially when there is an air pollution alert in effect. People
without fans or air conditioners should go to places such as shopping malls, movie theaters, libraries or
area cooling centers. For more information about a cooling center near you, contact your local branch of
the Harford County Public Library.
Dr. Moy also encourages everyone to remember to pay attention to family members, co-workers,
friends, neighbors, and even pets. “Check in with them, especially if they are young, elderly, or ill.”
For more information on heat-related illness, visit the Harford County Health Department website at
www.harfordcountyhealth.com or call 410-612-1781 or the National Centers for Disease Control website
at www.cdc.gov. Also, to obtain a free copy of the NIA’s Age Page on hyperthermia in English or in
Spanish, contact the NIA Information Center at 1-800-222-2225 or visit their website at: