With the daytime heat index expected to reach or exceed 100 degrees over the next few days, it becomes even more important that people follow recommendations to protect themselves from the extreme heat.
According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, in 2012 there were 21 heat-related deaths in Virginia.
One of the most important precautions people should take is to schedule or reschedule activities and outdoor work for the coolest parts of the day. In the summer, sunlight exposure is greatest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Here are additional steps you can take to protect yourself against heat-related illnesses:
· Keep cool in an air-conditioned area. Take a cool shower or a bath. Consider a trip to the mall or a local library or visit a friend with air conditioning. Spending at least two hours per day in air conditioning significantly reduces the risk of heat-related illnesses. When temperatures reach the upper 90s or above, a fan may not prevent heat-related illness.
· Drink plenty of fluids (two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour). To replace salt and minerals lost from sweating, drink fruit juice or a sports beverage during exercise or when you have to work outside. However, talk to your doctor first if you’re on a fluid-restricted diet or medications, or on a low-salt diet.
· Avoid sunburn and wear light clothing. Sunburn limits your body’s ability to keep itself cool and causes loss of body fluids. Use sunscreen with a high SPF rating. Lighter-weight clothing that is loose fitting and light colored is more comfortable during extreme temperatures. Use a hat to keep the head cool.
· Give your body a break, as the heat wave can be stressful on your body. Limit physical activity until your body adjusts to the heat.
· Never leave children or pets in cars. Temperatures inside a car can quickly reach more than 150 degrees, resulting in heat stroke and death.
· Use the buddy system if you’re working outside. If you’re working outside and suffer a heat-related illness, you could become confused or could lose consciousness. Therefore, make sure someone else knows of your plans.
For more information about heat-related illnesses, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website at www.vdh.virginia.gov.
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