With temperatures reaching well over 90 degrees over the next couple days, the best advice may be to stay inside.
Dennis Dudley, director of the Frederick County Department of Emergency Preparedness, recommends people stay in air-conditioned locations if possible and limit outdoor activities to the early morning and evening hours as much as possible. For those without air conditioning, he suggests they visit family or friends who do have it or go to public areas, such as a mall or library, that has air conditioning.
Hydration was another key factor in curbing heat related illnesses. Keeping a consistent intake of fluids to maintain a certain level of hydration is imperative, especially for the at-risk populations, Dudley said.
Even healthy individuals can get sick from the heat, though Dudley said there are certain groups that are more at risk: older adults, pregnant women, infants and young children, those with preexisting health conditions and the homeless.
“People 65 years or older, their bodies are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature or they don’t feel thirsty until they are already dehydrated,” Dudley said.
If people are not careful, extreme heat can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat strokes, Dudley said. “Each are different reactions to being dehydrated or your core body temperature going up,” Dudley said.
Heat cramps, according to Battalion Chief Charles Scott of the Frederick County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, is the first stage of a heat emergency.
Typically, an individual will experience muscle cramps or spasms during or after exercising in high heat, although it can happen outside of exercise as well, Scott said. It’s likely seen with the elderly, small children, overweight individuals and those who consumed alcohol. Stretching, cooling down and hydration with water or sports drinks can help ease symptoms.
Heat exhaustion is more severe. With heat exhaustion, Scott said an individual can experience muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, increased heart rate, faster breathing, headache, irritability, nausea, vomiting, pale skin, sweating, and they could faint. Like cramps, finding a cool spot and increasing fluid intake can help relieve symptoms. It’s also recommended to remove excess clothing and place cool towels on the skin, or fanning it.
Heat stroke, he said, is the most severe heat-related illness and requires medical attention. A person suffering from heat stroke will experience similar symptoms to heat exhaustion but will have a higher body temperature, shallow breathing, weak pulse and may have hallucinations or seizures, Scott said. Move to a cool place and call 911. Remove excess clothing and drench the skin in cool water while placing ice packs in the groin and armpit area. If the individual is conscious, have them drink fluids.
Dudley and Scott also warn not to forget about pets. Try to walk them in shaded areas and have cool water on hand. He told pet owners to be aware that sidewalks and roadways are also very hot with the high temperatures and pets can burn their toe pads, he said.
Finally, Dudley urged residents to not leave pets and children unattended in vehicles. It’s a huge safety issue, he said, and always happens in the summer.
“Car interiors can quickly reach lethal temperatures even when it's cool outside. So, in this weather, it can get very bad very quickly, so it’s very important not to do that,” Dudley said.