Health Department offers tips to stay cool in extreme heat

ELIZABETHTOWN — Mother Nature’s relentless summer heat, resulting in daily heat advisories, have many folks looking for ways to cool off.

Carol Strickland, health educator with the Bladen County Health Department, shared some tips that can help folks stay cool and to ward off heat-related ailments.

“Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable, yet annually many people succumb to extreme heat. Historically, from 1979-2003, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States,” said Strickland in a press release.

Strickland said people suffer from heat-related illnesses when their bodies are “unable to compensate and properly cool themselves.”

She said that the body normally cools itself by sweating, but in some cases sweating isn’t enough to help your body cool down. In those situations, the body temperature can rise rapidly, which can potentially lead to damage to the body’s vital organs.

“Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use,” said Strickland.

She added that healthy individuals are not immune to heat-related illness.

“Even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather,” said Strickland.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA said those most susceptible to heat-related illness are “who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.”

Strickland offered some tips for staying cool in the heat.

— Air-conditioning is the No. 1 protective factor against heat-related illness and death. During conditions of extreme heat, spend time in locations with air-conditioning such as shopping malls, public libraries, or public health sponsored heat-relief shelters in your area.

— Get informed. Listen to local news and weather channels or contact your local public health department during extreme heat conditions for health and safety updates.

— Drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids every hour, regardless of your activity level.

— Rest often in shady areas.

— Wear light clothing and protect yourself from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher.

— Don’t drink liquids that contain large amounts of sugar — these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Most importantly, Strickland said, “If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.”

If you would like any educational materials such as posters or brochures about heat safety for you, your pets or children in hot cars, call Marianne Valentiner at 910-872-6264.

Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.