High Temps Raise Health Concerns

With temperatures expected to be in the mid 90’s throughout the state for the next several days, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is urging Georgians to avoid prolonged exposure to the heat and sun and to limit strenuous outdoor activity to prevent heat related illnesses.

“Extreme heat can lead to very high body temperatures, brain and organ damage, even death,” said DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “It’s important to stay cool and hydrated in extreme temperatures to avoid serious health effects like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”

Heat stroke is a serious illness characterized by a body temperature greater than 105 degrees. Symptoms may include dry red skin, convulsions, disorientation, delirium and coma. Onset of heat stroke can be rapid; serious symptoms can occur within minutes. Treatment involves the rapid lowering of body temperature using a cool bath or wet towels. Keep victims of heat stroke in a cool area and immediately call 911.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat stroke that may develop due to a combination of several days with high temperatures and dehydration in an individual. Signs of heat exhaustion include extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea or headache. Victims may also vomit or faint. Heat exhaustion is treated with plenty of liquids and rest in a cool, shaded area. Those on a low-sodium diet or with other health problems should contact a doctor.

To protect your health when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense. The following tips are important:

  • Drink more fluids, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
  • Stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library or a friend or relative’s home – even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath is a much better way to cool off.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • NEVER leave infants, children, adults or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open. Remember to always “Look Again” to be sure everyone is out of the vehicle. If you see anyone locked in a hot vehicle, call 911.
  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, take short breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Protect yourself from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).

Extreme heat affects everyone, but it can be especially hard on the elderly, infants and young children, and people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Check on neighbors, friends or family at particular risk at least once a day.

Pools and lakes are a great way to cool off, but remember to keep a close eye on children, know how deep the water is and make sure the water is free of hazards.

For more information about extreme heat and precautions to take to prevent heat-related illnesses, click here. Visit the DPH website for information about water safety and injury prevention.