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(Toms River) – The Dog Days of Summer are upon us and Mother Nature is already turning up the heat with temperatures recently breaking the 90 degree mark with more steamy temperatures on the way. The Red Cross reports that the last several years, excessive heat is responsible for more deaths than all other weather related events, including floods.

 

What’s considered a heat wave? The definition of a heat wave is described as a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally 10 degrees or more than the normal average, often combined with excessive humidity.

 

“It’s that time of year where the oppressive heat can be dangerous and deadly, advises Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little. “Heat waves are unique. Whether they last just a short time or stick around for weeks, you should always be prepared and know how to stay safe.”

 

Important tips that can help you beat the heat before the next heat wave arrives:

  • Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes.
  • Be aware of both the temperature and the heat index. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when the effects of heat and humidity are combined.
  • Discuss heat safety precautions with members of your household. Have a plan for wherever you spend time – home, work and school – and prepare for power outages.
  • Check the contents of your emergency disaster kit in case a power outage occurs.
  • Know those in your neighborhood who are elderly, young, sick or overweight. They are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.
  • If you do not have air conditioning, choose places you could go to for relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (schools, libraries, theaters, malls).
  • Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
  • Ensure that your animals’ needs for water and shade are met.

The “Do’s and Don’ts” during a heat wave:

  • Never leave children or pets alone in an enclosed vehicle.
  • Listen to weather reports for heat advisories and forecast information.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid alcoholic and caffeine drinks.
  • Use the buddy system when working in excessive heat.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Wear loose fitting, light colored clothing.
  • Check on elderly neighbors and pets frequently to ensure they aren’t suffering.
  • Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors.

 

During heat waves, people are typically susceptible to three types of heat conditions: heat exhaustion, cramps and stroke.

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat. Give an electrolyte-containing fluid, such as a commercial sports drink, fruit juice or milk. Water may also be given.

Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion often affects athletes, firefighters, construction workers and factory workers. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin; headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and exhaustion. Move the person to a cooler environment. Remove or loosen as much clothing as possible and apply cool, wet towels to the skin. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of a cool fluid such as a commercial sports drink or fruit juice to restore fluids and electrolytes. Milk or water may also be given. If the persons condition doesn’t improve, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually occurs by ignoring the signals of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke develops when the body systems are overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning. Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion, vomiting, and seizures. Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 immediately.

“It’s extremely important to know the symptoms of all three of these heat-related conditions,” explains Daniel E. Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator. “You put your life in jeopardy if you don’t react quick enough and take the proper action. If you or someone you see may be suffering from heat stroke, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 immediately for help.”

To learn more about the heat waves and safety precautions, please visit the OCHD website at www.ochd.org or follow us on Twitter@OCpublichealth or follow us on Facebook. Also, please check out our new website at www.phu2.org, to access and learn more about our Public Health is You Too! campaign to help equip you to take simple steps to improve your health.