With sweltering temperatures forecast over much of North Carolina for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, public health officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services are urging people to take steps to protect themselves from heat-related illnesses. Combined temperature and humidity readings could reach into the upper 90s over the next several days.
State Health Director and DHHS Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Tilson, M.D., MPH urges people spending time outdoors for work or recreation to protect themselves from the sun and to drink plenty of fluids to minimize the risk of heat-related illness. "High temperatures, along with high humidity levels can be dangerous,” she said.
Symptoms of heat-related illness include muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, fainting, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Heat-related illness is preventable with proper precautions. However, every summer there are about 3,000 heat-related illness emergency department visits. Children, older individuals, outdoor workers and those with chronic health conditions are most vulnerable.
To reduce risk of heat-related illness:
• Increase fluid intake
• Take frequent breaks in cool or air-conditioned places if spending extended time outside
• Reduce normal activity levels
• Speak with your physician about how to stay safe if you take medicines that make you more vulnerable to heat, such as drugs for high blood pressure, migraines, allergies, muscle spasms, mental illness and tranquilizers
• Check on neighbors, and if working outdoors, check on your co-workers
• Never leave children or pets unattended in vehicles, especially during warm or hot weather, as temperature levels inside a car can reach a lethal level in a matter of minutes
High heat days may also be poor air quality days, which can pose an additional threat to those living with chronic health conditions, older adults and children.
Individuals and families experiencing a heating or cooling crisis are also encouraged to check with their county department of social services about the availability of and their eligibility for Crisis Intervention Program funds.