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7/3/2012 - Stay Safe During Power Outage, Heat

STAY HEALTHY DURING POWER OUTAGE, HEAT

With temperatures continuing to average in the 90s this week, and with some residents still without power, the Cumberland County Health Department would like to stress the importance of staying safe and healthy in this warm weather. High temperatures can put people at risk of dehydration, heat stroke and hospitalization. Health Officer George Sartorio advises “Do whatever it takes to keep yourself and loved ones cool and comfortable. Take advantage of one of the cooling shelters that are open in the county if you’re unable to run fans and air conditioning. Residents should contact their local OEM office to find the nearest location.”

Too much time spent in high temperatures can lead to a few conditions. Heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke (aka sun stroke), all occur because the body is trying to cool itself down after being in the heat for a long time. When this happens, the blood rushes to the surface of the skin and less blood reaches your brain, muscles and other organs. Although they are caused by high temperatures, each is a little different:

• Heat exhaustion can happen when a large amount of fluids is lost through sweat. This can disturb circulation and brain function.

• Heat cramps are similar to heat exhaustion because it occurs when fluid is lost. The loss of fluid through sweat can also lead to loss of important nutrients and minerals that the body needs to function, this can lead to muscle cramps.

• Heat stroke happens when long exposure to heat causes the temperature control part of the brain to shut down. This can prevent someone from sweating and cooling down his or her body.

Some other conditions caused by high temperatures include fainting, hyperthermia (which is high body temperature), swelling, and hyperventilation. These conditions can happen to anyone but the elderly and young children have higher chances of being affected because their bodies do not lose heat quickly. People who work outdoors are also at a higher risk. If you or someone you know is suffering from heat stroke or heat exhaustion, please call 911 or contact a medical provider, then move the person inside or to shade. Try to give fluids, remove extra clothing, and try to cool their body with water or ice packs. Some serious symptoms include unconsciousness, seizures, difficulty breathing, confusion, restlessness, anxiety, heavy sweating or no sweat and vomiting or diarrhea.

Not all instances require emergency assistance and mild cases can be treated at home. If the person is not showing any of the above symptoms they can be treated with the following; get
some rest, get out of direct sunlight, cool down with a fan or ice packs, drink sports fluids that contain electrolytes and avoid strenuous activity for a few days.

Here are some helpful tips on avoiding these conditions:
• Stay hydrated before, during and after outdoor activity. Sweating causes you to lose a lot of fluid so staying hydrated is key!
• Try to stay in a shaded area when outdoors. Bringing an umbrella, tent or staying under a shady tree can keep you cooler and prevent higher body temperatures. If nothing else wear a wide brimmed hat.
• Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Darker clothing attracts sunlight.
• Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks. These can affect circulation.
• Avoid being outside at peak sun hours. Between 10am and 4pm the sun and the temperature and your risk are at its highest. Stay indoors or under shade.

We also would like to remind residents about taking the necessary safety measures for possible spoiled food. The following are examples of foods that should be thrown away if kept unrefrigerated (above 40 degrees Fahrenheit) for over two hours:

• Meat, poultry, fish, eggs—raw or cooked
• Milk and soft cheeses
• Lunch meats and hot dogs
• Cooked vegetables
• Casseroles, stews, or soups
• Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes
• Fresh fruits that have been cut

Never taste food to determine its safety. You cannot rely on appearance or odor to decide whether food is safe. For a more detailed list of when to save and when to throw out refrigerated foods during power outages, visit www.cshealth.org and follow the link to FoodSafety.gov.

 
If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact the Cumberland County Health Department at 856-327-7602. Find the Cumberland County Health Department on ‘Facebook’ for up to the minute information and links to public health topics and news.