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Officials: Heat-related illness may be threat this week


August 1, 2017

Photo by Scott Swanson BOATS fill the South Santiam arm of Foster Lake on a hot Sunday afternoon, July 30. Forecasts indicate that temperatures will shoot well above 100 during the mid-week, beginning Wednesday, Aug. 2.

With triple-digit temperatures expected across the region this week state officials and the American Red Cross urge residents to be aware of the steps they should take to avoid heat-related illness.

“Employers and workers in Oregon need to be especially aware of the dangers of working in high heat,” said Penny Wolf-McCormick, health enforcement manager for Oregon OSHA. “That’s because workers here tend to be used to working in mild weather and are frequently not acclimated to this type of heat.”

Signs of trouble include headaches, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, or nausea.

Certain medications, wearing personal protective equipment while on the job, and a past case of heat stress create a higher risk for heat illness. Heat stroke is a more severe condition than heat exhaustion and can result in death. Immediately call for emergency help if you think the person is suffering from heat stroke.

Follow these simple steps to keep yourself and others safe before and during a heat wave.


- Be aware of both the temperature and the heat index. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when the effects of heat and humidity are combined. Check the contents of your disaster preparedness kit to ensure it has enough water and non-perishable food items, just in case.

For a full kit list, visit

- 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, theaters, malls). Many government websites provide a list of available cooling centers.

- 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 yields an inside temperature of 95 degrees and rises 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 (participants and spectators).

- Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.

- Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors.

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

- 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.

Those most at risk for heat-related illness are people 65 years and older, people with chronic medical conditions, infants and children, athletes, people who work outdoors, and those without indoor air conditioning.

Look for symptoms of heat-related illness.

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.

If you suspect heat cramps, 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 more severe and is often evidenced by heavy sweating, weakness, cold/pale/clammy skin, a fast and weak pulse, and fainting.

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 four 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. Heat stroke develops when the body’s systems are overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning.

Symptoms include hot, red, dry or moist skin and a rapid and strong pulse. Heat stroke can lead to possible unconsciousness, so be aware of your condition and if you start noticing these symptoms.

Heat stroke is life-threatening. 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 for 20 minutes or until the person’s condition improves.

For more information on dealing with heat, download the free Red Cross Emergency App

in the Apple Store or Google Play .

It offers a Heat Wave Safety Checklist, among many other resources , and provides expert medical advice right at your fingertips.


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