Beat the Heat
by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director
August 13, 2012
In Missouri, summer months bring high temperatures and numerous heat-related illnesses and deaths. This year, the Kansas City Metro area has experienced one of the hottest summers. The City of Independence has reported 41 heat related illnesses so far this summer. As we continue to experience high temperatures this summer, it is a good time to review ways to beat the heat and stay cool.
It is important to stay indoors in an air conditioned environment as much as possible during the heat of the day. Do not use a fan as your primary source of cooling. If you do not have air conditioning, you can call the United Way 2-1-1 to find the nearest cooling center, or consider going to a public building, such as the library, the movie theater, or the mall. Cooling centers in Independence include: Sermon Center, Palmer Center, YMCA, Mid-Continent Public Libraries, Fairmount Community Center, and Salvation Army. Hours of operation are available by contacting the facility.
To prevent heat related illnesses, keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoid alcohol and other caffeinated drinks with a lot of sugar. You should also avoid strenuous work or exercise during the hottest part of the day. If you have to be outside working, wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes to help keep your body covered from the sun. Take frequent breaks if working during the heat of the day and use a buddy system between co-workers in high heat-stress jobs to help ensure that signs of heat stress do not go unnoticed. Also, don’t forget about your head and face; wear a wide-brimmed hat and put sunscreen on exposed skin.
Never leave a child in a vehicle, even if it is just for a minute. Heatstroke can happen when a child is left in, or becomes accidentally trapped in, a car. When the outside temperature is 93° F, the temperature inside a car can reach 125° F in just 20 minutes, quickly raising body temperature to dangerous levels.
Other factors that increase the risk for heat related illnesses in children include overdressing and extreme physical exertion in hot weather with inadequate water intake. Make sure your kids only participate in heavy activity outdoors before noon and after 6 p.m. Teach kids to drink plenty of water when outdoors on hot days and come indoors immediately whenever they feel overheated.
You should seek medical attention if you have been outside and start to have any of the following symptoms: dizziness, nausea, confusion, muscle cramps, bad headache, and have a strong, pounding pulse.
Don’t forget about your family, friends, and neighbors. Remember to check on people you know that do not have air conditioning, especially if they are elderly and live alone.
Offer to take them to a cooling center during the afternoon to get some relief from the heat.
If you have questions about cooling centers in Independence, please call the United Way hotline 2-1-1.
*Information provided by Preparemetorkc.org, the Independence Health Department and Missouri Department of Health