Department of Health: Extreme Heat Can Cause Dangerous Health Conditions

HARRISBURG – As hot summer weather continues across the state, the Department of Health encouraged all Pennsylvanians to be aware of the dangerous impacts extreme heat can have on themselves and their neighbors, especially the elderly and other vulnerable populations.

“The combination of heat and humidity can be deadly for people who are not able to keep themselves cool,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.

“Exposure to high temperatures for long periods of time can cause heat exhaustion or heat strokes. We ask all Pennsylvanians to be a good neighbor and check on those who may have limited mobility or may not have a way to escape the heat.”

There are several groups of people who are at-risk of developing heat-related health conditions during high temperatures.

Those groups include infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, people with chronic medical conditions and those who must work outdoors. It is important to make sure these groups are monitored on hot days.

Extremely hot weather can make you sick, and extreme heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States each year.

Data from the CDC shows that cases of heat stress illness have been increasing in recent years, and that the majority of heat stress illnesses occur in men and those 65 years and older.

Remember to wear:

  • Lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing;
  • A hat or visor;
  • Sunglasses; and
  • SPF 30 or higher sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage (reapply as necessary).

To stay hydrated:

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day – do not wait until you are thirsty!
  • Outdoor workers should drink between two and four cups of water every hour.
  • Avoid consuming caffeinated, alcoholic or sugary beverages.
  • Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks.

To safely exercise:

  • Limit outdoor exercise and stay indoors in air conditioning on hot days.
  • Exercise early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day. (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
  • Pace yourself when you run, walk, or otherwise exert your body.

To protect others:

  • Never leave children, older adults or pets behind in a vehicle.
  • Check on those who may be more at risk of developing health issues from extreme temperatures like:
  • Infants and young children
  • People ages 65 and older
  • People with chronic medical conditions

It is also important to know the difference between heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Symptoms of a heat stroke include a high body temperature (above 103°F); red, hot and dry skin, but no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.

If you think someone is having a heat stroke, it is important to first call 9-1-1. After calling for help, get the person to a shady area and quickly cool them down by putting them in a tub of cool water or spraying them with a garden hose. You should not give the victim any fluids, including water, to drink.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, fainting and nausea or vomiting.

Help the person cool off and seek medical attention if symptoms are severe, symptoms last more than one hour, or the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure.

For more information on how to deal with the heat and other natural disasters, visit www.health.pa.gov or follow the Department of Health on Facebook and Twitter.

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