Heat-Related Illnesses: The Best Defense Is Prevention

June 26, 2009 · Filed Under Events and News 

The onset of summer has us longing for days outdoors, family barbecues, golf, baseball, vacations and long strolls around the neighborhood.

Fort Worth’s Office of Emergency Management reminds that higher temperatures bring their own set of concerns — for people and their pets.

Heat can cause serious problems with your health and safety. Heat kills by pushing the body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat.

Before Extreme Heat

To prepare for extreme heat, you should:

  • Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.
  • Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
  • Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.)
  • Keep storm windows up all year.

During a Heat Emergency

What you should do if the weather is extremely hot:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit your exposure to the sun.
  • Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
  • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as community centers, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and other community facilities. Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation.
  • Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Drink plenty of water. People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
  • Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
  • Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.

For more information on how to protect yourself and your family from the heat, and to learn other safety tips, visit www.KnowWhat2Do.com.

Pets Can Succumb to Heatstroke

While most humans have a cool place to stay and avoid the rising temperatures, many pets are left outside to bear the heat.

Temperatures are expected to reach into the triple digits over the next few days, and the Texas humidity can make it feel much hotter. With current conditions, temperatures inside a car easily can reach 150 degrees or more — even with the windows cracked.

The extremely high temperatures can result in heat-related illnesses in cats and dogs. These illnesses include heat cramps, exhaustion and stroke. These can occur in all animals. Fort Worth Animal Care and Control officials are asking pet owners to take adequate precautions:

  • Give pets plenty of fresh water, and always restrain them near a shady and ventilated shelter.
  • Walk pets early in the morning or late in the evening, and minimize exercise in hot weather.
  • Don’t leave pets in cars for any reason at any time.
  • Keep pets inside in a comfortable environment during extreme weather, if possible.
  • Allow pets to acclimate to sudden temperature changes.

If an animal shows symptoms of heatstroke, act quickly:

  • Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
  • Apply ice packs or cold towels to the animal’s head, neck, and chest or put the animal in cool (not cold) water.
  • Let the animal drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
  • If symptoms persist, take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

To learn more, call Fort Worth Animal Care and Control at 817-392-3737.


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