Del. Public Health urges residents to take additional care in extreme heat

While temperatures will apparently climb into the 90s again this weekend, heat indexes are predicted to get to over 100 degrees.

With the National Weather Service’s Excessive Heat Warning continuing through 9 PM on Sunday for New Castle County, the Division of Public Health says it is urging residents statewide to take precautions and preventive measures in the extreme heat conditions. Hot weather can reportedly cause heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and severe respiratory conditions, which can be fatal. 

Health officials say extreme heat is especially dangerous for seniors, young children, people with disabilities, and people with breathing conditions and other chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Also apparently at risk are people without access to air conditioning, fans, or cooling shelters.

On excessively warm days, health officials report that our bodies have less chance to recover, placing everyone at risk for heat-related illness because sweat ceases to evaporate and the body’s natural cooling system slows down or shuts down completely when temperatures and humidity are extremely high.

In the coming days, Delawareans are encouraged by DHSS to stay indoors as much as possible. Residents who don’t have access to air conditioning, or fans should seek out cooler locations such as libraries or shopping malls, and residents are also asked to check on vulnerable members of their families and neighbors, particularly the elderly and people with disabilities.

Health officials remind owners that animals are also sensitive to the heat and are at risk for heat-related illnesses.  Owners should make sure to provide shade or move animals to shaded pens, provide plenty of cool drinking water, and avoid unnecessary transportation, and walking of pets.

Animals reportedly at the greatest risk of stress from the heat include pregnant or lactating animals, very young and older animals, animals with darker coats, obese pets, short-nosed dog breeds, and animals with chronic health conditions.

In dogs and cats, such signs can apparently include rapid panting, increased heartbeat and body temperature, weakness, increased salivation, restlessness, and muscle spasms, lack of coordination, bright red or pale and sticky gums, vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.

Delaware 2-1-1 connects Delawareans with critical services and support. Eligible callers can receive referrals to summer cooling and crisis assistance and the City of Wilmington’s Free Electric Fan Program for seniors.  

Tips to prevent heat illness health officials say:

  • Do not leave a child or pets alone in a parked car, even for a minute. Call 911 if you see a child or pet left unattended in a vehicle. Carry water with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks containing sugar, alcohol, or caffeine, which dehydrate the body. Check with a doctor before increasing fluid intake if you have epilepsy, heart, kidney, or liver disease, or if you are on a fluid-restrictive diet. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician. Visit this website for more information.
  • Stay indoors on the lowest floor possible. When outdoors, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Wear a hat or use an umbrella. Use sunscreen. Sunburn slows the skin’s ability to cool itself, and has been linked to skin cancer. Avoid extreme temperature changes. Be careful trying to cool down too quickly; a cold shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can lead to hypothermia, particularly for the elderly and children. In these cases, cool water is better than ice cold water.
  • Limit outdoor activity, especially mid-day when the sun is hottest. Work out or hold team practices early in the morning or in the early evening. A CDC online course for coaches, athletic trainers, students, school nurses, parents, and teachers is at this webiste.

Health officials also ask residents to heed the following heat danger warning signs and take suggested actions:

  • Heat cramps occur in the muscles of the limbs or abdomen occurring during or after physical activity in high heat. Sweating results in a loss of fluids and salts that cause muscle cramps. Address heat cramps by resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water.
  • Heat exhaustion is more severe, occurring when a person is overheated along with reduced or unbalanced intake of fluids. Symptoms include dehydration, fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, rapid breathing, irritability, and fainting. Take these simple steps to reduce heat exhaustion: Move the person indoors or into shade. Loosen or remove the person’s clothing. Encourage the person with heat exhaustion to eat and drink. Get the person to a cool shower or bath. Call your doctor for further advice.
  • Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer cool itself, and can be a life-threatening event. Prompt medical treatment is required. Symptoms include: flushed, hot and dry skin with no sweating; high body temperature, above 103 degrees F, taken orally; severe, throbbing headache; weakness, dizziness, or confusion; sluggishness or fatigue; decreased responsiveness; and loss of consciousness. If heat stroke occurs, take these steps: Call 9-1-1 immediately. This is a medical emergency. Get the heat stroke victim indoors or into shade. Get the person into a cool shower or bath or wipe them down with continuously soaked cool washcloths while awaiting emergency responders.

For more information, visit the CDC website.

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