Temperatures are high this summer, and Southwest Virginia is filled with outdoor activities to enjoy with family and friends. The Roanoke Alleghany district of Virginia’s Department of Health encourages you to follow key tips to remain healthy while enjoying the sunny, warm weather this summer.
Summer offers many opportunities to explore the great outdoors and enjoy fun-filled activities with your family and friends, but taking precautions against the dangers of sun and heat-related illnesses is critical to keeping you adventure-ready for the long haul.
The human body is made up of at least 60 percent water, and when Virginia summer temperatures rise into the 90s and above 100 degrees, the body cools itself by sweating. To continue to keep cool in extended periods of high heat, it is important to replace the water expelled through sweat. And, to know that under some conditions, sweating isn’t enough to keep cool. The following symptoms could indicate a serious condition:
- Dehydration—During extreme heat your body loses fluid through sweating. Dehydration results from the excessive loss of water and salts from the body, due to illness or from prolonged exposure to heat. To prevent dehydration drink more water than usual, 2 to 4 cups of water while outside.
- Heat Cramps— Muscle cramps may be the first sign of heat related illness. Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy physical activity in hot environments. Muscles most often affected include those of your calves, arms, abdominal wall, and back. If you are suffering from heat cramps, rest for several hours and drink clear juice or a sports drink that contains electrolytes.
- Heat Exhaustion— Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water and salt from sweating during hot temperatures. The elderly, people who work outside and people with high blood pressure bear the highest risk. Symptoms include sweating, skin that’s cold and pale, fainting, nausea/vomiting and a rapid weak pulse. If you experience these symptoms, move to a cooler location and lie down. Apply cool, wet cloths and sip water.
- Heat Stroke— Heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by doing physical activity in hot weather. Sweating has usually stopped and your body temperature becomes too high. Skin is red, hot, dry or moist. Pulse is rapid and weak. It is important to know that body temperatures can reach dangerous temperatures (as high as 106 degrees) in just 15 minutes. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention. Call 911. Do not give fluids.
Throughout your community there are resources available to help you know when to prepare for high temperatures. Local newspapers and meteorologists will announce when excessive heat is headed your way. These terms can help you understand the science of high heat warning signs.
- Heat Index: is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature.
- UV Index: indicates the risk of overexposure to solar UV radiation on a scale of 0 (low) to 11 or more (high)
- Excessive Heat Outlooks: Excessive heat event predicted in the next 3-7 days.
- Excessive Heat Watches: Excessive heat event predicted in the next 24 to 72 hours.
- Excessive Heat Warning/Advisories: Excessive heat event predicted in the next 36 hours.
To avoid the complications of sun and heat related illnesses, protect your family with these key prevention tips:
Always apply UVA/UVB sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or greater to exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours.
When the temperature rises, it is important to drink plenty of water. Drinks that contain caffeine, large amounts of sugar or alcohol should be avoided because they can cause dehydration.
On hot days, prevent illness by keeping cool indoors. If your home is not air conditioned, try to spend the hottest hours of the day in a cool public place such as a library, movie theater, or store.
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 and sunglasses or to use an umbrella.
Limit physical activity
Avoid excessive physical exertion in hot temperatures, especially in the middle of the day. If you must work outdoors, stay hydrated by drinking 2-4 glasses of water each hour and take frequent breaks in a cool place. Even a few hours in an air-conditioned environment reduces the danger of heat-related illness.
Do not keep children or pets in cars
Temperatures inside a car with windows up can reach over 150 degrees quickly, resulting in heat stroke and death.
Check on your neighbors
Although anyone can suffer heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. People aged 65 or older are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications that can result during periods of high temperatures and humidity.
If you are experiencing symptoms, please visit your local healthcare professional or dial 911.
For additional public health Information visit the Virginia health department website at www.vdh.virginia.gov or the national Center for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov.
This article is part two of a five-part series from the Alleghany District of the Virginia Department of Health meant to inform local residents about the risks and preventive measures they can take to protect the health of their families and friends this summer.
The Roanoke Alleghany Health District is working to prevent epidemics and the spread of disease, protect the environment, prevent injury, promote and encourage healthy behavior, respond to disasters and assist communities in recovery, and assure the quality and accessibility of health services for all members of our community.