The Division of Public Health (DPH) is asking Delaware residents to prepare for extreme heat this week and prevent heat-related illness as temperatures rise. Temperatures are expected to reach the upper 90s through the weekend, with the heat index values as high as 110 degrees. The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning for New Castle County through 10 p.m. Sunday, July 21, and a Heat Advisory for Kent County and inland Sussex County through 8 p.m. Wednesday. Additional Heat Advisory days are possible.
On hot days and warm nights, our bodies have less chance to recover, placing everyone at risk for heat-related illness. When temperatures and humidity are high, sweat ceases to evaporate and the body’s natural cooling system slows down or shuts down completely. Hot weather can cause heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and severe respiratory conditions, which can be fatal.
Extreme heat is especially dangerous for seniors, young children, people with disabilities, and people with breathing conditions and other chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other respiratory problems. Higher temperatures, not even in the extreme, have also been associated with higher levels of inflammation in patients with preexisting heart health conditions. Also at risk are people without access to air-conditioning, fans, or cooling shelters.
DPH suggests that every household make a heat wave plan in case of a power outage. Air-conditioners should be serviced and electric fans should be obtained before the heat rises to dangerous levels. Residents should keep cases of bottled water on hand and listen to local news reports for the locations of community “cooling centers,” which are often public libraries or churches. During days of extreme heat, Delawareans should check on vulnerable members of their families and neighbors, including seniors and those with access and functional needs.
For those who may need additional assistance, Delaware 2-1-1 connects Delawareans with critical services and support. Eligible callers can receive referrals to crisis assistance, and nearby cooling centers.
Tips to prevent heat illness:
· Do not leave people or pets alone in a parked car, even for a minute. Call 911 if you see anyone (a child, or adult with access and functional needs) who is unable to open a door or window and is left unattended in a vehicle. Keep your car locked when you’re not in it so children don’t get in on their own. If you see a pet left in a car, even with air-conditioning running, call 911 or Delaware Animal Services at 302-255-4646.
· Also remember that any equipment left in a car can quickly become hot to the touch, especially metal pieces in child car seats, seatbelt handles, and wheelchairs. Check the temperature of these items prior to use to avoid potential burns.
· Carry water with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks containing sugar, alcohol, or caffeine, which dehydrate the body. Check with a doctor before increasing fluid intake if you have epilepsy, heart, kidney, or liver disease, or if you are on a fluid-restrictive diet. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician. Visit http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html for more information.
· Stay indoors on the lowest floor possible. When outdoors, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Wear a hat or use an umbrella. Use sunscreen with SPF 30+. Sunburn slows the skin’s ability to cool itself, and has been linked to skin cancer.
· Avoid extreme temperature changes. Be careful trying to cool down too quickly; a cold shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can lead to hypothermia, particularly for the elderly and children. In these cases, cool water is better than ice cold water.
· Limit outdoor activity, especially mid-day when the sun is hottest. Work out or hold team practices early in the morning or in the early evening. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) online course for coaches, athletic trainers, students, school nurses, parents, and teachers is available at: cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/extreme/Heat_Illness/index.html.
· Heed the following heat danger warning signs and take suggested actions:
o Heat cramps occur in the muscles of the limbs or abdomen during or after physical activity in high heat. Sweating results in a loss of fluids and salts that cause muscle cramps. Address heat cramps by resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water.
o Heat exhaustion is more severe, occurring when a person is overheated, along with reduced or unbalanced intake of fluids. Symptoms include dehydration, fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, rapid breathing, irritability, and fainting. Take these simple steps to reduce heat exhaustion: Move the person indoors or into shade. Loosen or remove the person’s clothing. Encourage the person with heat exhaustion to eat and drink. Get the person to a cool shower or bath. Call your doctor for further advice.
o Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer cool itself, and can be a life-threatening event. Prompt medical treatment is required. Symptoms include: flushed, hot and dry skin with no sweating; high body temperature (above 103 degrees F, taken orally); severe, throbbing headache; weakness, dizziness, or confusion; sluggishness or fatigue; decreased responsiveness; and loss of consciousness. If heat stroke occurs, take these steps: Call 9-1-1 immediately. This is a medical emergency. Get the heat stroke victim indoors or into shade. Get the person into a cool shower or bath or wipe them down with continuously soaked cool washcloths while awaiting emergency responders.
For more information, visit the CDC at cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning.html.
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