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  • Heat-Related Illnesses and Ways to Prevent Them

    heat-related illnessReady Gov, a national public service campaign that educates and empowers Americans to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate natural disasters and other emergencies, is reminding us about the numerous dangers that are accompanied by extreme heat. According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), heat waves have become steadily more frequent since the 1960s. Whereas there was an average of two heat waves per year during the 60s, the nationwide average now holds around six. Out of all other weather-related hazards, extreme heat is responsible for the highest number of deaths each year.

    A heat wave is a minimum two-to-three-day period with temperatures of 90 degrees or above. Our bodies must work extra hard in hot weather to maintain normal body temperatures, which can lead to a variety of serious medical complications. Sometimes, these complications are fatal. Certain people face higher risks for experiencing heat-related illnesses, like older individuals, people with chronic medical conditions, people who are overweight, and children. The three kinds of heat-related illnesses that people most commonly sustain are:

    • Heat cramps. Heat cramps are the mildest of heat-related illnesses. They usually present with painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur after periods of intense exercise and/or sweating during high heat. Signs of heat cramps include muscle spasms or cramping in the arms, legs and stomach
    • Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of salt and water. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress into heat stroke. Some common symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, fast and/or weak pulse, headache, dizziness, fainting, nausea and vomiting
    • Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness. It occurs when the body cannot regulate its own temperature. This causes the temperature to rapidly rise; when heat stroke happens, the body can reach 106 degrees in just 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke causes body temperatures of 103 degrees and above, red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat, a rapid, strong pulse, dizziness, confusion and unconsciousness. Because of how dangerous it is, if you suspect someone is experiencing heat stroke call 9-1-1 or transport them to a hospital right away. Until help arrives, cool the person down in whatever way you can. Refrain from giving them anything to drink

    Ways to Prepare for and Stay Safe During a Heat Wave

    There is more that you can do to protect yourself from heat-related illnesses than just being familiar with the signs and symptoms of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stress. Ready Gov offers a multitude of useful tips for how people can prepare for a heat wave as well as how to stay safe when one happens. Here are some examples of ways that you and your loved ones can prepare for an impending heat wave ahead of time:

    • Cover windows with drapes or shades
    • If possible, do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling source. Fans create air flow, but they do not prevent heat-related illnesses or lower a person’s body temperature
    • Find places in your community that you can go to stay cool, like libraries and shopping malls. You can also contact your local health department to find a cooling center in your area
    • Weather-strip your doors and windows
    • Use window reflectors that are designed to reflect heat back outside
    • Add insulation to keep heat out
    • Use a powered attic ventilator, or attic fan, to regulate the heat level of a building’s attic by clearing out hot air
    • Install window air conditioners and insulate the area around them
    • If you are not able to afford cooling costs in your home, weatherization or energy-related home repairs, contact the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for assistance

    The weather service issues excessive heat warnings for the onset of dangerous heat conditions 12 hours in advance. Not everyone has the time or resources to prepare before a heat wave comes, but there are still steps they can take during one to keep themselves safe and ward off developing heat-related illnesses. Here are Ready Gov’s recommendations for what to do once a heat wave strikes:

    • Never leave people or pets in a car on a hot day. Even on days when the temperature is as low as 60 degrees, the interior of a vehicle can climb to over 110
    • Take cool showers or baths
    • If air conditioning is not available in your home, go to a cooling center, library, or shopping mall
    • Wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing
    • Use your oven less to help reduce the temperature in your home
    • If you are outside, find shade. Wear a hat wide enough to protect your face
    • Avoid high energy activities or work outdoors, during midday heat, if possible
    • Check on family members, senior citizens and neighbors
    • Watch for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke

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    Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947

    If you have a question about filing a legal claim, contact the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.

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