Summer is right around the corner which means sunshine and heat! While Pacific Northwesterners anxiously await these warmer months, we also need to be conscious of potential risks associated with extreme heat. For those who may be heat sensitive or who do not have adequate access to cooling systems or water, extreme temperatures can be life threatening. And with extreme heat events predicted to now be more common due to our changing climate, it is a good time to look at ways to prepare.
As you may recall, last summer we experienced a record-breaking heat wave that lasted 7 days—from June 26th to July 2nd. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there were 100 heat related deaths reported throughout the state. In Skagit County, we sadly lost 6 individuals to heat related complications during this time.
It is crucial that during these times we are ready and prepared. Being ready can help to prevent heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and—most importantly—death. Do you know the signs of heat-related illnesses and ways to respond? Keep reading for some helpful information.
Prepare for Extreme Heat
- Weather strip doors and windows.
- Cover windows with drapes or shades.
- Have at least 2 fans to create air flow in home. Remember fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort but will not reduce your body temperature or prevent heat-related illnesses.
- Install a window air conditioner and insulate around it.
- Add insulation to keep the heat out.
- Know of cooling places like stores or libraries near you! Contact Skagit County Public Health to find a cooling shelter near you—(360) 416-1500.
Be Safe During
- Stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids.
- Take cold showers or baths.
- Go to a cooling center if air conditioning is not available in your home.
- Never leave people or pets in a closed vehicle on a hot or warm day.
- Wear loose, light colored clothing, and lightweight clothes.
- Use your oven less to help reduce heat in your home.
- Avoid being outside.
- Check in with family members to let them know you’re okay or to check if they’re okay. As well with neighbors, and friends.
- Consider pet safety.
- Watch for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
What is heat illness?
Some common heat illnesses are heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps. Here are some signs to look out for.
Signs of Heat Stroke:
If you suspect a heat stroke, immediately call 9-1-1 or get the person to a hospital as soon as possible.
- Rapid, strong pulse.
- Red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat.
- Dizziness, confusion, or unconsciousness.
- Extremely high body temperature.
Signs Heat Cramps:
- Muscle pains.
- Spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Fast or weak pulse
If you have signs of heat cramps or heat exhaustion, go to the closest cooling center/location near you. Try to cool down by removing excess clothing and drink water or sports drinks. Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.