Heat can be dangerous, even fatal

July 31, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 2 p.m. July 31. 2009

Heat contributed to the death of a Seattle man, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County officials. Authorities said the man was in his 60s and had heart disease; they said heat was a contributing factor in his death.

Public health officials used the incident to reiterate the danger of heat for children, senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses.

“We know that heat puts additional stress on people with underlying chronic conditions, just like the flu and other infectious diseases,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a news release. “Tragically, excessive heat exposure can be fatal, and it’s possible that we may see additional deaths before the heat wave ends.”

Officials opened cooling centers across King County.

In Issaquah, county officials recommend the Issaquah library, 10 W. Sunset Way.

City officials have no plans to open cooling centers unless weather conditions change.

“At this point, we’ll keep monitoring the community and the weather conditions,” city spokeswoman Autumn Monahan.

Health officials offered recommendations to stay cool:

  • Wear lightweight clothing.
  • Spend time in air-conditioned buildings. If your home lacks air conditioning, beat the heat at a cooling center, mall or movie theater.
  • Drink plenty of water or nonalcoholic beverages, and avoid waiting until you feel thirsty to drink.
  • Limit your direct exposure to sunlight if you go outside.
  • Never leave infants or children in a parked car, even if the windows are open.
  • Limit outdoor activities to mornings and evenings, when temperatures are less brutal.
  • Avoid strenuous activities.
  • Check on elderly neighbors and relatives.
  • Know the signs of heat exhaustion.

Overheating occurs when people are unable to cool themselves fast enough. The condition can lead to symptoms of heat exhaustion, including muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting. If you notice someone with signs of overheating, move the person to a cooler location, have them rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage.

Seek medical attention immediately if they do not feel better.

In severe instances, people can suffer heat stroke, which can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • red, hot and dry skin
  • rapid, strong pulse
  • nausea, confusion and unconsciousness

Get more tips and resources about staying cool here.

“People with underlying conditions like heart disease need to take it easy, and all of us need to check on frail family, friends and neighbors, especially if they live alone, to make sure they are safe and cool,” Fleming said.

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