Health officials urge residents to keep cool as the mercury rises

July 7, 2010

By Sarah Sexton

UPDATED — 3:50 p.m. July 7, 2010

Forecasters predict temperatures in Issaquah to rise past 80 this week, as summer weather makes a belated debut.

The Issaquah Valley Senior Center, 75 N.E. Creek Way, is cooperating with the city of Issaquah and opening its doors to everybody who wants to use the building as a cooling shelter.

People of all ages who want to take shelter from the summer heat are more than welcome to come, Executive Director Courtney Jaren said.

The city opened the senior center and Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 71 as cooling centers during a heat wave last July, city spokeswoman Autumn Monahan said.

“If we start getting calls from concerned citizens, or from firefighters or police, then we start to open cooling centers,” she said.

The city has no pre-scheduled plans to open any cooling shelters at this time, because high temperatures have only just begun. Monahan suggested that people go to libraries or malls and other free, public, air-conditioned buildings to escape the heat.

The senior center keeps visitors cool in hot weather through the use of air conditioning, hosting ice-cream socials and implementing calm activities, such as playing cards, singing and utilizing the baby grand piano recently donated by Kathryn Volk, a Swedish Medical Center emergency room nurse and supporter of the senior center.

They have also suspended more strenuous exercise activities, such as the Stay Active and Independent for Life, program because of the heat, but have added yoga, digital photography and other peaceful programs to their list of activities.

The local American Red Cross chapter and Public Health – Seattle & King County remind Issaquah and King County residents to take precautions to address the heat. Certain people — including children, the elderly and people with chronic health issues — should take special care to stay safe.

The organizations offer tips to help people prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing — light colors reflect away some of the sun’s energy — a hat and use plenty of sunscreen.
  • Carry water or juice and drink frequently, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, because they dehydrate the body. Make sure to check on youth and elderly to make sure they have enough fluids.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increases metabolic heat.
  • Avoid using salt tablets unless directed by a physician.
  • Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do something physically demanding, try to do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually between 4-7 a.m. Remember to take regular breaks to cool off.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Be vigilant about water safety if headed to a pool or beach. Never leave a child unattended near water and keep lifesaving gear handy.
  • Watch for signs of life-threatening heat stroke. The person’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
  • Signals of heat stroke include hot, red, and usually dry skin, changes in consciousness, rapid, weak pulse and rapid, shallow breathing.
  • If you or someone you know experience symptoms, call 911. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body by wrapping wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, place them on each of the victim’s wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering a house by as much as 80 percent.
  • Symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting. If you see someone with signs of overheating, move the person to a cooler location, have them rest for a few minutes and then slowly drink a cool beverage.
  • If you take prescription diuretics, antihistamines, mood-altering or antispasmodic drugs, check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat exposure.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cool shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can result in hypothermia, particularly for elderly or very young people.

Protect pets, too. Limit exercise for pets to the coolest part of the day, usually the early morning. Even in the coolest part of the day, watch for signs of trouble. Glassy eyes and frantic panting indicate a dog needs help.

Make sure your pet has constant access to shade and an endless supply of cool, clean water.

Never leave a pet in a car — even for a few minutes.

Be vigilant for signs of heat stroke, which is deadly for pets. Symptoms include sluggish and nonresponsive demeanor, bright red or dry tongue and gums, vomiting or diarrhea, unusual breathing patter, heavy panting or high heart rate.  If your pet displays these symptoms, get emergency medical attention.

Find more safety tips and information about first aid, aquatics and other Red Cross classes and products, visit the Seattle Area American Red Cross website or the American Red Cross chapters of Washington State website.

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