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N.C. Health Officials Urge Caution and Offer Preventive Steps During Heat Wave

 

For release: Immediate    July 20, 2011
Contact: Julie Henry (919)707-5053

North Carolina health officials are urging simple steps to prevent a trip to the emergency room during the high temperatures across North Carolina this week.

State Health Director Jeffrey Engel said those steps include drinking plenty of water or juice to avoid dehydration and, if possible, limiting time outdoors, especially in the afternoon when the sun and temperatures are at their peak. With many summer camps still in session, children should be closely monitored for signs of heat stress, including:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting

Elderly people also are very susceptible to complications from extreme heat. The N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services is encouraging frequent checks on elderly family members and neighbors to be sure they are protected from the heat. Additional safety measures for people of all ages include:

  • Be careful about exercising or doing a lot of activities when it is hot. Stay out of the sun, take frequent breaks, drink water or juice often, even before you are thirsty, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Dress for the weather. Loose-fitting, light-colored cotton clothes are cooler than dark colors or some synthetics.
  • If you live in a home without fans or air conditioning, open windows to allow air flow, and keep shades, blinds or curtains drawn in the hottest part of the day or when the windows are in direct sunlight. Try to spend at least part of the day in an air conditioned place like a shopping mall, a store, the library, a friend’s house, or the movies. Cool showers can help, too. Do not use a fan when the air temperature is above 95 degrees - it will blow hot air, which can add to heat stress.
  • Never leave a child or a disabled or elderly person or a pet in an unattended car, even with the windows down. A closed vehicle can heat up to dangerous levels in as little as ten minutes.

According to data collected from hospital emergency departments across the state, more than 130 individuals sought care for heat-related illness between July 10 and 16. Temperatures recorded at Raleigh Durham International Airport peaked near 100 degrees early in that week.

“The majority of people seeking emergency care are between 25 and 64 years old,” Engel said. “These are folks who are out exercising, doing yard work or recreational activities, and those who have jobs that keep them outdoors. It is critical that everyone take proper precautions to avoid illness when the temperatures are high.”

For more information on summer heat data and prevention, visit publichealth.nc.gov

 

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