American Red Cross Urges Heat Safety: The Elderly and the Very Young are the Most Susceptible to Heat Illness

When the dog days of summer deliver hot temperatures, and high humidity, the Rock River Chapter of the American Red Cross urges residents to take precautions against the heat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 400 Americans die each year due to summer’s sweltering heat. Furthermore, the National Weather Service asserts that excessive heat was the number one weather-related killer, causing more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and extreme cold from 1994 to 2003.

Everyone is at risk when temperatures rise above 90 degrees, but the elderly and the very young are most susceptible to heat and heat-related illnesses. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, flushed or pale skin, heavy sweating and headaches. Victims of heat-related illness should be moved to a cool place, given cool water to drink and ice packs or cool wet cloths should be applied to the skin. If a victim refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness call 911 immediately.

Red Cross Heat Safety Tips:

  • Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or to use an umbrella.
  • Drink water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.
  • Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. 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 a.m.
  • Stay indoors when possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine. Remember that electric fans do not cool, they simply circulate the air.
  • Be a good neighbor. During heat waves, check in on elderly residents in your neighborhood and those who do not have air conditioning.
  • Learn Red Cross First Aid and CPR. “While the above tips can help prevent emergencies, it is crucial to know what to do if an emergency arises,” says Jessica Paquette, Director of Health & Safety for the Rock River Chapter.

For more information on heat safety, contact the Rock River Chapter at (815) 963-8471 or visit www.redcross.org.

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