Take Common Sense Precautions to Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses

Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 711, FAX 703-324-2010

Aug. 3, 2005


Take Common Sense
Precautions to Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses

Despite today’s sweltering temperatures, Fairfax County residents can prevent heat-related illnesses by taking common sense precautions. The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory from 2 to 6 p.m. today. With temperatures in the mid-90s combined with the humidity, it will feel like 100 degrees, and hot weather is predicted for tomorrow as well.

In addition to the heat advisory, today’s air quality is “Code Orange,” which means that the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Children and adults with respiratory or heart ailments should avoid prolonged outdoor activities.

Heat takes the greatest toll on the very young and the very old, especially children under age 5 and senior citizens over age 65. Intense summer temperatures also greatly affect people who are already sick or take certain medications, including diuretics, antihistamines, beta-blockers, tranquilizers and anticholinergics.

Be alert for the signs of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke. It occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, loses its ability to sweat and is unable to cool down. There are several warning signs people should look for during prolonged, extreme heat exposure:

  • Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees)
  • Red, hot, dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Dizziness, nausea, paleness
  • Throbbing headache
  • Shallow, fast breathing

If these symptoms are present, call for immediate medical assistance because heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided quickly. While medics are en route, caretakers should get the symptomatic person to a cool, shady area.

Cooling the person with a hose, cool shower or tub bath is important. Monitoring the person’s temperature and continuing cooling efforts are critical.

From 1979 to 1999, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined.

To keep cool, follow this general advice:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Do not drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages because they dehydrate the body.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible. Spend time in an air conditioned place if possible; resting for just two hours in air conditioning can significantly reduce heat-related illnesses.
  • Slow down. Avoid strenuous physical activities or reschedule them for the coolest part of the day, usually the early morning.
  • Eat light meals, avoiding high-protein foods because they increase metabolic heat.
  • Don’t take salt tablets unless directed by a doctor.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, which helps reflect sunlight.
  • Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Sunburn makes it more difficult for your body to cool off.
  • Never leave children or pets unattended in a car—not even for a few minutes. Even with the windows slightly open, the temperature in a car on a 93-degree day can soar to 125 degrees in just 20 minutes and approximately 140 degrees in 40 minutes.

The Fairfax County Area Agency on Aging is giving away free fans to income-eligible senior adults who need them for health reasons. This program runs until Sept. 30, and seniors can apply for a fan by contacting Kim Karlinchak at 703-324-7694, TTY 703-449-1186 or at kim.karlinchak@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Residents also can cool off at one of the county’s pools or air conditioned RECenters or library branches. To find a pool or RECenter near you, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/recenter.htm or call 703-324-8700, TTY 703-803-3354. To find the nearest library branch, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/branches/default.htm or call 703-324-3100, TTY 703-324-8365.

For more information on beating the heat, call the Office of Public Affairs at 703-324-3187, TTY 711.

Fairfax County is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination in all county programs, services and activities and will provide reasonable accommodations upon request. To request special accommodations, call 703-324-3187, TTY 711. Please allow five working days in advance of events in order to make the necessary arrangements.

Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

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