Health Department Reminds Residents that Extreme Heat Requires Protective Actions

Thursday, June 21, 2012

With the daytime heat index expected to reach or exceed 105 degrees over the next couple of 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 2011 there were 10 heat-related deaths in Virginia.

“During times of excessive heat, people need to pay attention and take additional precautions,” said Dr. Venita Newby-Owens, director of the Virginia Beach Health District. “According to our statistics, almost 31 percent of the hyperthermia cases, which were related to extreme heat, involved individuals who were engaging in outside activity such as gardening. Twenty-six percent of the hyperthermia cases were individuals who were inside without air conditioning.”

One of the most important precautions people should take is to schedule or reschedule activities and outdoor work during 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 number 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 higher SPF. 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 reach more than 150 degrees quickly, 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 you plans.

For more information about heat-related illnesses, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website at

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