Heat-related Illnesses and Heat Safety

June is National Safety Month

Posted at 3:45 p.m.

Heat-related illnesses (heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heatstroke) can occur when high temperatures overcome the body’s natural ability to dissipate heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Older adults, young children and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible to these illnesses. The CDC notes that from 1979-2003, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States. During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined.

As part of National Safety Month, the county’s Risk Management Division and Office of Emergency Management encourage you to take steps today to stay safe in the summer heat.

Heat Safety Basics

  • Drink plenty of fluids: Drink two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Do not drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages because they dehydrate the body.
  • Keep cool indoors: If you can, stay in an air-conditioned area. Resting for just two hours in air conditioning can significantly reduce heat-related illnesses. Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, movie theaters, shopping malls and other community facilities.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but with temperatures in the 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.
  • Plan outdoor activities around the heat. If you must go outside, go before noon or at night when it’s cooler.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activities or reschedule them for the coolest part of the day, usually the early morning. Limit physical activity until your body adjusts to the heat.
  • Never leave children or pets unattended in a car — not even for a few minutes.                
  • Older adults and those with special medical needs are at an increased risk of developing heat related illnesses. Check on elderly relatives and neighbors during periods of extreme heat.

National Environment Public Health Tracking Network

Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and heat stroke with this information  from Fairfax County. More information and hot weather tips is also available from the CDC.

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