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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Florida Department of Health in Marion County shares heat safety tips

As the temperature soars, the Florida Department of Health in Marion County (DOH-Marion) is urging the community to take precautions against possible heat-related injuries.

The National Weather Service is expected to issue a heat advisory on Saturday for much of northern Florida, including Marion County. The NWS does so when the heat index climbs to 108 degrees or more.

The NWS defines the heat index as the measurement of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature. For example, the index reaches 108 degrees with a relative humidity reading of 50% coupled with an air temperature of 96 degrees.

Heat advisories are generally issued within 12 hours of the heat index reaching 105 degrees.

Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year, according to the NWS. Certain segments of the population are particularly vulnerable as the temperature climbs, including:

  • Young children and infants: Their bodies are less able to adapt to heat than adults.
  • Older adults: They can experience multiple adverse effects from extreme heat, especially those who take certain medications, have pre-existing health conditions, have limited mobility, or live alone.
  • People with chronic medical conditions: They are more likely to face serious health problems during extreme heat than healthy people.
  • Pregnant women: They are at higher risk as well. Extreme heat events have been linked to adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight, preterm birth, and infant mortality, as well as congenital cataracts.

DOH-Marion is reminding residents that it is never safe to leave a child, disabled person, or pet locked in a car. Anyone with toddlers at home should keep their cars locked, even in their own driveway.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind, according to the NWS:

  • If outdoors, reduce, eliminate, or reschedule strenuous activities, including exercise, until the coolest time of the day. Those most vulnerable, as mentioned above, should stay in the coolest available place.
  • Wear lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Minimize your direct exposure to the sun, as sunburn actually reduces your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
  • When eating and drinking, eat lighter, easy-to-digest foods such as fruit or salads. If you pack food, put it in a cooler or carry an ice pack. Don’t leave food in the sun. Meats and dairy products can spoil quickly in hot weather.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, or non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids. You should do so even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine, as they promote dehydration.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.
  • Remain in cool settings by using an air conditioner or spending time in air-conditioned locations. Consider using portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air.
  • Do not direct the flow of portable electric fans toward yourself when room temperature is hotter than 90°F. The dry, blowing air will dehydrate you faster, endangering your health. You can also keep cool by taking a cool bath or shower.
  • Remember to check on others, especially those who are older, sick, or frail.

Everyone should be mindful of heat-related illnesses, which break down into three categories:

  • Heat cramps: This is often the first sign of heat-related illness, and if not addressed, may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke. Symptoms of heat cramps include painful muscle cramps and spasms, usually in legs and abdomen. Heavy sweating is another symptom. To treat heat cramps, apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea, then stop giving water. Seek immediate medical attention if cramps last longer than one hour.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating; weakness or tiredness; cool, pale, and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; muscle cramps; dizziness; nausea or vomiting; headache; and fainting. To treat heat exhaustion, move the person to a cooler environment, preferably a well air-conditioned room. Loosen clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, or have the person sit in a cool bath. Offer sips of water. Seek immediate medical attention if the person vomits, or if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.
  • Heat Stroke: Symptoms of heat stroke include a throbbing headache; confusion; nausea; dizziness; a body temperature above 103 degrees; hot, red, dry, or damp skin; rapid and strong pulse; fainting; and loss of consciousness. To treat heat stroke, call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency and delaying treatment can be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned environment and reduce body temperature with cool cloths or a bath. Use a fan, but only if the heat index is below the high 90s. Do not give fluids.

To learn more about heat-related injuries and how to protect yourself in hot conditions, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Extreme Heat webpage.