CHARLESTON — The W.Va. State Health Department issued a list of tips and ideas to assist with coping with the 100-plus degree temperatures that have plagued the entire region over the last few days. The hot days have become a matter of great concern due to the fact that approximately 452,000 homes statewide are currently without still without electricity since high winds and heavy downpours swept through the state on Friday and again on Sunday evening.
Cooling centers have been set up in every county affected by the heat and by the storms. Water is also being distributed from locations in each and every community. The names of the businesses or fire departments accommodating the public with water can be obtained by calling your local 911 center.
With no air conditioning in numerous homes due to the electrical outages, other methods of staying cool are being recommended to the public.
Drink more fluids than unusual if you’re outside in hot weather for prolonged periods of time or doing vigorous physical activity. Avoid alcoholic beverages or those containing caffeine as they cause dehydration.
Check on elderly neighbors and relatives and watch for signs of heat-related stress. The elderly population and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer from extreme and prolonged exposure to heat.
Bathing or taking a cool shower can also provide relief and can aid in reducing your core temperature. It’s also recommended to find the coolest room in your home and stay in that location as much as possible.
While outside, wear light colored, loose fitting clothing and use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. Avoid the outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. Infants and children are especially susceptible to sunburn.
Never leave a child inside a parked car. A car’s inside temperature can jump as much as 19 degrees in just 10 minutes. In 2010, a record 49 children nationwide died from heatstroke after being left in cars.
The signs and symptoms of a heat stroke are an extremely high body temperature, red, hot and dry skin (no sweating), a rapid, strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness.
The signs of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting.
If someone around you exhibits symptoms of heat stroke or exhaustion, the following actions are required to prevent their condition from deteriorating further.
Help the victim cool off and seek medical attention if condition worsens or lasts for more than one hour. Get them out of the sun and into the coolest location possible. Help them into a cool shower or bath. If this isn’t possible you may sponge bath them, placing cool cloths behind their neck, under their arms and in their groin area. If they are able to consume liquids, provide a non-alcoholic or decaffeinated beverage for them, preferably water or a sports drink if they are available. Don’t hesitate to call 911 if symptoms do not improve.
The description of a heat wave, which is what we are experiencing now, states that it is defined as a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with prolonged periods of high humidity. Despite the common perception that hurricanes and tornadoes are the most dangerous weather event, heat waves kill more Americans than any other type of natural disaster. The American Meteorological Society reports that on average, heat kills more than 1,000 people each year. Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits.
Under normal conditions, the body’s internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, in extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Other conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality.
The health department also stresses the importance of not eating food items that require refrigeration and have not been kept at the proper temperatures due to power outages, even if the color, texture and odor appear to be normal. Food poisoning is a serious health condition that can result in death if left untreated.
The saying that has been utilized through the years that states “when in doubt – throw it out”, is a good rule of thumb to remember when deciding what to throw away and what to keep.
A final health tip offered is to remember your outdoor pets, making sure they have a shaded area to rest during the heat of the day, along with plenty of water to drink. Animals can dehydrate as quickly as a human if proper measures of care are not administered by their owners.
Rachel Dove-Baldwin in Williamson contributed this report.