Know the signs to prevent heat illness, injury
The dog days of summer are fast approaching, and residents can expect more extreme heat, high humidity and temperatures that can potentially lead to heat-related illnesses and injury.
There are a number of preventative steps people can take to keep themselves and those around them safe, starting with proper hydration, according to Ashley Shetland, Safety and Occupational Health specialist with the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood Safety Office.
When asked if there was only one piece of advice she could give to prevent heat illnesses, Shetland said it’s to stay, “hydrated, hydrated, hydrated.”
“Drink more fluids that keep you hydrated, regardless of how active you are,” Shetland added. “Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to stay hydrated.”
Shetland said people can be proactive in preventing heat-related illnesses by getting into the habit of checking temperatures and paying attention to weather forecasts. Making appropriate adjustments, such as wearing appropriate clothing and scheduling outdoor activities for the cooler times of day – early morning and later-evening hours – is advised.
“If you’re not used to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually,” she said. “Also, if you plan on spending time outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of at least SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated so make sure to continue to reapply it according to the package directions.”
Shetland added that people and pets should never be left in parked vehicles.
“Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open,” she said.
Know the signs
Federal safety experts with the Department of Homeland Security website ready.gov advise everyone to not only plan for extreme heat, but also learn to recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses and take appropriate action.
“People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves,” Shetland said. “Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather, like when humidity is high.”
Some of the symptoms of heat illness to watch for include nausea, flushed skin, rapid breathing, high body temperatures, altered mental states and changes in sweating.
“If anyone starts to have any of these symptoms, immediately seek shade or get indoors, remove excess clothing, and cool down with whatever means available — and call 911,” Shetland said.
General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital has an educational video available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_CTb0Dva6U&feature=youtu.be to help people recognize and respond appropriately to heat-related illnesses. In the video, posted in 2019, Capt. Elizabeth Spengler, GLWACH Public Health Nurse, details the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, heatstroke and sunburn.
“The key to avoiding heat injury is truly prevention,” Spengler says in the video.
Safety experts with ready.gov also advise residents to check on family members and neighbors during heat advisories and warnings.
They recommend the following tips to keep homes cool:
— Cover windows with drapes or shades.
— Weather-strip doors and windows.
— Use window reflectors, such as aluminum-foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
— Add insulation to keep the heat out.
— Use attic fans to clear hot air.
— Install window air conditioners and insulate around them.
For more information on heat preparedness and prevention from the Department of Homeland Security and links to information from other agencies, visit https://www.ready.gov/heat.