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    Tips from the Health Department on staying cool

    (6/18/2006) The dog days of summer are now upon us. We’ve been hearing much about the sweltering conditions in the southwest, and now we too, have been hit by some hot and humid weather.

    Exceptionally high temperatures might trigger some adverse health reactions in susceptible populations, especially the very young and the elderly. Heat related illnesses, such as “heatstroke” and “sunstroke” occur when your body can’t keep itself cool. Common symptoms of heat illness are headache, dizziness, muscle weakness or muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting.

    What can you do?

    Bill Quinn, director of Health for the City of New Haven says that the best defense is prevention. Here are some prevention tips:

    • Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask her how much you should rink while the weather is hot.

    • Don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar as these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

    • Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air-conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library – even a few hours spent in air-conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

    • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.

    • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

    • NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.

    Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

    Check regularly on:

    • Infants and young children

    • People aged 65 or older

    • People who have a mental illness

    • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure

    If you must be out in the heat:

    • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

    • Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage. Remember the warning in the first “Tip” (above), too.

    • Try to rest often in shady areas. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).

    • If you feel dizzy or lightheaded stop whatever it is you’re doing. Feeling dizzy or lightheaded are the first signs of heat exhaustion. Drink some water and use a cool wet cloth or icepack around your neck for five or ten minutes to help bring down your body temperature. If you start to feel disoriented or confused, ask someone to take you to an emergency room or call 911 right away.

    Mr. Quinn concludes by saying that with special care and following the recommendations mentioned there is no reason to be concerned. Enjoy the warm weather but be smart and act responsibly. And, don’t forget your sunscreen!

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