May 26, 2011

Summer is here!  Even though we don't experience a lot of extreme summer weather in the Pacific Northwest, staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather can help you remain safe and healthy.  

During Hot Weather

To protect your health when temperatures rise, remember to keep cool and use common sense.  The following tips are important:

  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar - these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.  
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully and pace yourself if you are working or exercising in
  • Do not leave children or pets in cars 

Hot Weather Health Emergencies

Strenuous activities on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses.  Here is a list of heat related illnesses and what you can do to prevent them:

Heat cramps are often the first sign you are overheated and may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.  Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms or legs, that may occur when the body is depleted of salt and moisture.  If you or someone you are with are experience heat cramps, you should:

  • Stop what you are doing and find a cool place to rest
  • Drink clear juice or a sports drink
  • Don't return to your activity until a few hours have passted after the cramps subside
  • Seek medical attention if heat cramps don't subside after 1 hour

Heat exhaustion is the body's response to a large loss of water and salt in your body.  Warning signs include shallow and fast breathing, clammy skin, heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness and nausea, vomiting and/or fainting.  If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.  If you are someone near you is experiencing heat exhaustion:

  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages
  • Rest in a cool or air-conditioned space
  • Take a cool shower or bath

If symptoms get worse or last longer than 1 hour you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature rises rapidly and can't cool itself down.  Warning signs can vary but may include:

  • An extremeley high body temperature (generally above 103 F)
  • Red, hot and dry skin
  • No sweating
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Unconsciousness

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and you should seek medical assistance immediately.  While waiting for emergency services to arrive you can:

  • Get the victim to a cool, shady place
  • Cool the victim rapicly using ice packs, cool water or a cool bath or shower
  • Check the body temperature regularly to see if it starts to go down
  • Do not give the victim fluids to drink

Sunburn is caused by over-exposure to the sun and is literally a burn on your skin.  Symptoms include skin that becomes red, painful and abnormally warm after being exposed to the sun and may include blistering.  If you are sunburned you should:

  • Contact your doctor if you experience a fever, fluid-filled blisters or severe pain
  • Avoid further exposing the sunburn to more sun
  • Apply cold compresses or immerse the sunburned area in cool water
  • Do not break blisters
  • Wear sunscreen!

Don't forget your pets!

Fido and Fluffy need to keep cool too.  Make sure your pets have plenty of fresh, clean water, a shady place to get out of the sun, and be careful not to over-exercise them.  And most definitely do not leave them in a parked car.  Here are some of the warning signs your pet may have a hear related illness:

  • excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • increased heart rate
  • drooling
  • mild weakness or stupor
  • seizures and collapse

Where can you go to stay cool?

Cooling centers are opened during extreme heat events during the summer months in Multnomah County and the Portland Metro area.  Here are some places you can go to and other resources for finding cooling centers in Multnomah County and the Portland Metro area:

  • Dial 2-1-1 on your phone or visit to find the nearest open cooling center
  • Visit your local air-conditioned community center, senior center, library or mall

Resources for extreme summer weather: