Beat the heat with Red Cross safety tips

  • Published
  • By Eric T. Hoehn
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Summer is wonderful time of year in the Miami Valley. Many of us will participate in outdoor activities we have looked forward to enjoying for some time.

Unfortunately, summer in this area can expose us to heat-associated risks as the mercury rises. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600 people in the United States die each year due to extreme heat.

Many simple measures can be taken to significantly reduce the chances of getting heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The American Red Cross urges people to drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks while working outside. Staying inside and avoiding strenuous activity is also recommended. 

Everyone is at risk when temperatures rise above 90 degrees, but the elderly and very young are most susceptible to heat and heat-related illness, which can cause serious harm and even death if unattended. Signs include nausea, dizziness, flushed or pale skin, heavy sweating and headaches.

Victims of heat-related illness should be moved to a cool place and given cold water to drink. Ice packs or wet cloths should be applied to the skin. If a victim refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Red Cross heat safety tips:

  • Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It’s also a good idea to wear hats or use an umbrella.
  • Drink water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed by a physician.
  • Eat small meals and more often. Avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.
  • Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must engage in strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually between 4 and 7 a.m.
  • Stay indoors when possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine. Remember that electric fans do not cool — they simply circulate the air.
  • Be a good neighbor. During heat waves, check in on elderly neighbors and those who do not have air conditioning.
  • Learn Red Cross first aid and CPR.

Know what these heat-related terms mean

  • Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although the least severe, they are an early signal the body is having trouble with the heat.
  • Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing it to decrease to vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim may suffer heatstroke. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin; heavy sweating, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.
  • Heatstroke: Also known as sunstroke, heatstroke is life-threatening. The victim’s temperature-control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. Body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Signals include hot, red and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high — sometimes up to 105 degrees.

General care for heat emergencies: 

  • Heat cramps or heat exhaustion: Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. If the individual is fully awake and alert, give half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not let him or her drink too quickly. Do not give liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, such as towels or sheets. Call 911 or the local emergency number if the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness.
  • Heatstroke: Because it’s a life-threatening situation, help is needed fast. Call 911 or your local emergency number. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool their body. Immerse the victim in a cool bath or wrap wet sheets around the body and fan it. Watch for signals of breathing problems. Keep the individual lying down and continue to cool the body any way you can. If the victim refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness, do not give them anything to eat or drink.

Play it safe in the summer heat to ensure an enjoyable time for all.