The seasons are changing and the temperatures are going up. It's that time of year to once again start considering the affects of warmer temperatures and take appropriate precautions to protect your health and safety.
Each year approximately 20 people die from heat-related emergencies. In 2006 a severe heatwave resulted in 655 deaths and over 16,000 excess emergency room visits throughout the state.
The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services Heat Contingency Plan (pdf download) describes state operations during heat related emergencies and provides guidance for state agencies, local governments, and non-governmental organizations in the preparation of their heat emergency response plans and other related activities. However, there are many things you can and should do to protect yourself from heat emergencies.
Heat stroke—which occurs when the body can’t control its temperature—may result in disability or death if emergency treatment is not given. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses a large amount of water and salt contained in sweat. Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but may include:
An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, orally)
Dizziness, nausea and confusion
Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
Warning signs of heat exhaustion vary, but may include:
If you see any of these signs for heat stroke or heat exhaustion, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency and should do the following:
Have someone call 911 while you begin cooling the victim.
Get the victim to a shady area.
Cool the victim rapidly with a cool bath or shower, or by sponging with cool water, until body temperature drops to 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit, orally.
If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
Do not give the victim alcohol to drink.
Again, get medical assistance as soon as possible.
If a victim’s muscles twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke, keep the victim from injuring him/herself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his/her side.
Animals, particularly those that spend time outdoors, are vulnerable to the heat as well. Check out the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website for important tips on keeping your pets protected from heat and other emergencies.
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