Greene County Combined Health District Announces “Public Health Heat Warning”

The upcoming days are going to be dangerously hot and humid if you’re working or playing outside, or living without air conditioning. The Greene County Combined Health District is cautioning that weather conditions are going to remain hazardous for a few days.

The primary reason for the public notification is that GCCHD expects a stretch of days with daytime heat indices at least in the mid to upper 90’s, coupled with nighttime lows in excess of 70 degrees. These types of conditions may cause those without air conditioning to experience significant physical and mental stress. When nighttime lows fail to drop below 70 degrees, the human body has a difficult time recovering from the ongoing heat.

Greene County Combined Health District officials are stressing that everyone needs to take precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses. Physical activity should be limited as much as possible. Individuals are also encouraged to minimize prolonged exposure to high heat conditions.

Background information:

High temperatures and humidity stress the body’s ability to cool itself, and heat illness becomes a special concern. There are three major forms of heat illnesses: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, with heat stroke being a life threatening condition.

Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are muscle spasms that usually affect the arms, legs, or stomach. Frequently they don’t occur until sometime later after work, at night, or when relaxing. Heat cramps are caused by dehydration. Although heat cramps can be quite painful, they usually don’t result in permanent damage. To prevent them, drink water every 15 to 20 minutes. Sports drinks that replace electrolytes help prevent a loss of sodium caused by excessive sweating. If nausea occurs discontinue fluids and seek medical attention.

Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is more serious than heat cramps. It occurs when the body’s internal air-conditioning system is overworked, but hasn’t completely shut down. This condition can occur when you don’t drink enough fluids to replace what you’re sweating away. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea, weakness, dizziness, heavy perspiration and extreme thirst. Somebody suffering these symptoms should be moved to a cool location such as a shaded area or air-conditioned building. Have them lie down with their feet slightly elevated. Loosen their clothing, apply cool, wet cloths or fan them. Have them take sips of water or sports drinks. If nausea occurs, discontinue fluids.

If vomiting continues or if little to no improvement after 30 minutes, seek immediate medical attention. Victims of heat exhaustion should avoid strenuous activity for at least a day, and they should continue to drink water to replace lost body fluids.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a life threatening illness with a high death rate. It occurs when the body has depleted its supply of water and salt, and the victim’s body temperature rises to deadly levels. A heat stroke victim may first suffer heat cramps and/or the heat exhaustion before progressing into the heat stroke stage, but this is not always the case. It should be noted that, heat stroke is sometimes mistaken for heart attack. It is therefore very important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and to check for them anytime someone collapses while in a hot environment. The symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, irrational behavior, loss of consciousness, convulsions, lack of sweating, hot dry skin, and abnormally high body temperature. If someone is having any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Seconds count. It is vital to lower a heat stroke victim’s body temperature.

The following are recommendations if followed will help prevent heat-related illness:

  • Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic fluids. Alcoholic drinks can increase a person’s risk to heat-related illnesses.
  • Decrease physical activity. This is particularly advisable for joggers and school athletic teams. Exercise in the morning or early evening.
  • Use air conditioning, if available. Many public buildings, libraries, malls, and other locations are air conditioned.
  • Wear loose lightweight and light-colored cotton clothing.
  • Eat light meals.
  • Cool down with showers, baths, and recreational swimming.
  • Adjust blinds, shades, and awnings to keep out the sun.
  • Use your basement, if it is cool, during the hottest hours.
  • Be a good neighbor and check on those who may need assistance.
  • Individuals with chronic health problems, such as heart disease or lung problems, should minimize activities because heat adds stress.
  • Extra caution should be taken for the elderly and young infants and children.
  • Children and pets should not be left unattended in closed vehicles.
  • Individuals on various medications should check with their doctor to see if the heat puts them at increased risk.
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