Heat wave: Tips to avoid heat-related problems

Cody Skelton, 25, of Albany, jumps a bike into the Willamette River on a dock he created while cooling off with his family at Bowman Park. Temperates statewide are anticipated in the 100s this week.

Triple digit temperatures are expected across the region this week and the American Red Cross is urging people to take these simple steps to avoid a heat-related illness:

• Look out for your neighbors -- people who are elderly, young or sick are more susceptible to heat-related illness and may need your help.

• If you do not have air conditioning, locate places you could go to find relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (schools, libraries and theaters).

• Ensure that your animals' needs for water and shade are met.

• Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles, not even for a few minutes. According to the National Weather Service, a car left in 80 degree weather yielded an inside temperature of 95 degrees and rising in just two minutes.

• Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.

• Eat small meals and eat more often.

• Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun's rays.

• Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day (late afternoon/evening).

• Postpone outdoor games and activities.

• Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.

• Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors.

• Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.

• Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat.

During heat waves people are susceptible to several heat-related conditions. Here's how to recognize and respond to them:

• Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat. Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle. Give an electrolyte-containing fluid, such as a sports drink. Water may also be given.

• Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition than heat cramps and often affects athletes, firefighters and construction workers. It also affects those wearing heavy clothing in a hot, humid environment.

Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion. Move the person to a cooler environment with circulating air.

Remove or loosen as much clothing as possible and apply cool, wet towels to the skin.

Fanning or spraying the person with water also can help.

If the person is conscious, give small amounts of a cool fluid such as a sports drink or fruit juice to restore fluids and electrolytes.

Give about 4 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes.

If the person's condition does not improve or if he or she refuses water, has a change in consciousness or vomits, call 9-1-1.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually occurs by ignoring the signals of heat exhaustion and develops when the body's systems are overwhelmed and begin to stop functioning.

• Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature; red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures.

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you believe someone is suffering from this condition.

Rapidly cool the body by immersing the person up to the neck in cold water, if possible OR douse or spray the person with cold water. Cover the person with bags of ice or cold, wet towels.

If you are not able to measure and monitor the person's temperature, apply rapid cooling methods for 20 minutes or until the person's condition improves.

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