North Carolina health officials are urging simple steps to prevent a trip to the emergency room during the high temperatures across North Carolina this week. In 2014 thus far there have been 95 heat-related emergency department visits. Common messages in triage notes were “working outside,” “overheated at work,” and “exercising.” At serious increased risk during the kind of heat we have been experiencing are seniors.
In a press release, the NCDHHS warns citizens to take steps to protect themselves, including drinking plenty of water or juice to avoid dehydration and, if possible, limiting time outdoors, especially in the afternoon when the sun and temperatures are at their peak. With many summer camps now in session, children should be closely monitored for signs of heat stress, including:
- Muscle cramps
- Fatigue, weakness
- Dizziness, fainting
- Nausea or vomiting
Older North Carolinians also are very susceptible to complications from extreme heat. The N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services is encouraging frequent checks on older family members and neighbors to be sure they are protected from the heat. Additional safety measures for people of all ages include:
- Be careful about exercising or doing a lot of activities when it is hot. Stay out of the sun, take frequent breaks, drink water or juice often, even before you are thirsty, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- If you live in a home without fans or air conditioning, open windows to allow air flow and keep shades, blinds or curtains drawn in the hottest part of the day or when the windows are in direct sunlight. Try to spend at least part of the day in an air conditioned place like a shopping mall, a store, the library, a friend’s house, or the movies. Cool showers can help, too. Do not use a fan when the air temperature is above 95 degrees – it will blow hot air, which can add to heat stress.
- Never leave a child, disabled or older person, or a pet in an unattended car, even with the windows down. A closed vehicle can heat up to dangerous levels in as little as 10 minutes.
- Know if your medications impede heat loss (i.e. kidney or diabetes medication, mental health medications). If you take medicine that affects your body’s ability to cool itself, talk with your doctor.
According to data collected from hospital emergency departments across the state, there were 95 heat-related illness emergency department visits last week, when temperatures were much lower than they are predicted for this week. The National Weather Service is forecasting heat indices of up to 103 degrees Thursday in the central region of the state and indices as high 105 degrees in the coastal region.
“The majority of people seeking emergency care are between 25 and 64 years old,” Cummings said. “These are folks who are out exercising, doing yard work or recreational activities, and those who have jobs that keep them outdoors. It is critical that everyone take proper precautions to avoid illness when the temperatures are high.”