FCHD offers tips on handling the heat

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By Panzi Blackwell

The dog days of summer have been – and are – upon us.
Temperatures soaring up in the 90s and past100 degrees can cause serious health conditions, which can be fatal.

The Fayette County Health Department and Kendra Craig expressed concern about the heat, and are urging people to protect themselves during the heat surge and also to check on others who live alone.
Craig also offered helpful tips to help us through these dog days of summer.  
Meet Kendra Craig, R.N.
Kendra has been with the Fayette County Health Department for 10 years.
She served as director of the Senior Renewal Program when the program was being launched. That program been successful toward its goal of helping seniors accept, adjust, and regain and renew their interests.
However, the versatile Mrs. Craig has spent the majority of her time with the health department working with disaster preparedness, both natural and man-made; all kinds of women’s health; and diabetes. She is presently getting ready to start the Teen Pregnancy-Prevention Program.
She is also a part of the Health Department’s Community Outreach Program. Craig said the program “helps the (people of the) community in different ways, such as during flu season or hot weather.
“Right now, our concerns are about the heat surge, and the effects it can have on people,” Kendra said.
On the subject of a heat shelter in Fayette County, she said, “I talked to Steve Koehler, our Fayette County Emergency Management director, and there is no shelter in Fayette County because there has been no request yet for one in Fayette County.
“If there is a need, they will have one. Steve has agreements with the schools and churches, so in a short matter of time, they can have one opened,” she said.
“Every month we have a local emergency plan committee meeting, and Steve has said that if there is a request and a need for one, there are facilities available,” Craig said.
Preventions and Signs to Watch For
As with any situation, prevention is very important, and Craig offered several tips on staying comfortable and safe during the heat surge.
“Basically, seniors and young children are the most viable areas of people who need to watch out for the heat,” she said.
“Some of the conditions to watch for are a headache, a dry face or skin that is hot to touch – you don’t want anyone passing out. Also, heavy sweating, dizziness and rapid breathing are signs of being too hot.
“Make sure people stay in shady areas, and a bottle of cool water and a cool, wet towel on the back of the neck can help,” Craig said.
“You should increase your fluid intake. Drink plenty of cool water, even if you don’t feel thirsty,” she said,  “Older people often don’t feel thirsty, and dehydration can happen so fast.  But avoid those liquids containing caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
“You can also get in a shower or tub with cool water, if necessary, to cool down,” she said.
It also helps to wear light-colored materials, Craig said.
It can be hard to get children to eat, “but you still need to eat (something light) to keep up your energy. Eating fruit would be good, something such as cool watermelon and fruits that would add to your fluid intake,” she said.
“Seniors need to watch their medicine. If you are on a lot of medicine, some (such as laxatives) can make you more vulnerable to heat, so make sure it will not increase your dehydration. If you are taking over-the-counter medicines, check with your doctor or pharmacist,” Craig said.
Ssniors are more prone to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, because they do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature, she said.
“They are more likely to have a chronic condition that upsets normal body responses to heat. They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, or that inhibit perspiration,” Craig said.
In general, she said, “If you are going to be outside, wear a hat or sunscreen. A hat is the best thing. Sunscreen will not keep you cooler, but it will protect your skin.”
Craig is a big promoter of sunscreen, as she had to have a skin cancer removed from her face. The sun causes skin cancer, which can be fatal.
If you don’t have air conditioning…
… use fans to circulate the air, and have your (screened)  windows and doors open, she said.
Put your feet in a tub of cool water.
Other tips are:
• Never leave anyone, including pets, in a closed, parked vehicle.
• Check on people living by themselves.
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, fainting, skin that is cool and moist, a fast and weak pulse, and rapid and shallow breathing.
What to Do*
If you see someone with heat exhaustion or heat stroke, call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the affected victim; you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency.
• Get the person to a shady area, and cool the person rapidly, using whatever methods you can. The methods include: immersing the person in  a tub of cool water or place in a cool shower; spraying the person with cool water from a garden hose; or sponging the person with cool water.
• If the humidity is low, wrap the person in a cool, wet sheet and fan them vigorously. Monitor body temperature and continue efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102 degrees. Do not give the person alcohol to drink.
• Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
*The suggestions are from About.com Senior Living.
You may contact the Fayette County Health Department (618-283-1044) for further information. They also have resources to help you.