2007-06-22 / Columnists

Cross Currents

Tips To Get You Through The Summer
CommentaryBy Joan Foley Director, American Red Cross Of Greater New York - Queens

CommentaryBy Joan Foley Director, American Red Cross Of Greater New York - Queens

JOAN A.FOLEY 
JOAN A.FOLEY I hope you are reading this under a shady tree in the yard or park, or while the fan or air conditioner is keeping you cool.

During the summer, either it is too hot for any of us to concentrate for long periods of time, or we are thinking about vacations, the beach or other warm weather fun. So, I thought this month's Cross Currents should be a quick and easy read, yet packed with useful hot weather safety information for you.

CLASSES AND PROGRAMS FOR THE SUMMER

Here are just some of some of the classes and programs we are conducting in Queens in July to help you be safe and remain prepared for emergencies. Class dates and times are subject to change. For more information about these and other classes, including sessions available in Spanish, call ARC/GNY - Queens at 718-558-0053, or visit www.nyredcross.org .

Upcoming classes include: Sunday, July 1, sports injury prevention and first aid, 9 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. Mondays, July 2 and 23, CPR/AED for the professional rescuer (nurse, lifeguard, flight attendant, firefighter, law enforcement, EMS) , 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Friday, July 20, standard first aid, 2.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m. Friday, July 20, and Tuesday, July 31, CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) - Adult, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

KEEPING COOL AND HELPING PEOPLE IN DISTRESS

Summertime means activities and fun under the sun! Most people love to spend time outdoors in the sun, and everyone must be careful not to let a heat-related illness spoil the day.

Know the stages of heat-related illness:

Heat cramps: Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion that usually involve the abdominal muscles or the legs. These cramps can be very painful. It is thought that the loss of water and salt from heavy sweating causes the cramps. Heat cramps are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.

Heat Exhaustion : A less dangerous condition than heat stroke, heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Fluid loss causes blood flow to the skin to increase, and blood flow to vital organs to decrease, resulting in a form of mild shock. Sweat does not evaporate as it should, possibly because of high humidity or too many layers of clothing. As a result, the body is not cooled properly. If not treated, a person with heat exhaustion may suffer heat stroke.

The signals of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, flushed, or red skin (the skin may be red right after physical activity). Also heavy sweating, headache, dizziness and weakness, exhaustion and nausea. The skin may or may not feel hot, and body temperature will be near normal.

Heat Stroke: Also known as sunstroke, heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 911 immediately. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.

The signals of heat stroke include vomiting, decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness and high body temperature. The skin may be moist or the person may stop sweating (and the skin may be red, hot and dry). Rapid but weak pulse and rapid but shallow breathing will occur.

Preventing heat-related illness: Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes. Exposure to such high temperatures can kill in minutes.

Drink plenty of water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you don't feel thirsty. Injury and death can occur from dehydration, which can happen quickly and unnoticed. Symptoms of dehydration are often confused with other causes. Your body needs water to keep cool. Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies.

Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine. This is especially true about beer, which actually dehydrates the body. People who are on fluid-restrictive diets or who have a problem with fluid retention should consult their doctor before increasing liquid intake.

Air conditioning provides the safest escape from extreme heat. If you don't have AC at home, stay indoors on the lowest floor out of the sun. Close doors and windows that allow heat to enter.

Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors reflect heat and sunlight and help you maintain a normal body temperature. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and over-warming effects of sunlight on your body. Keep direct sunlight off your face by wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Sunlight can burn and warm and inner core of your body. Also use umbrellas and sunglasses to shield against the sun's rays.

Use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or more even on cloudy days. Eat small meals of carbohydrates, salads and fruit, and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, because they increase metabolic heat. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed by a physician.

Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activity. If you must engage in strenuous activity, do so during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning (4 - 7 a.m.). Stay in the shade when possible, and avoid prolonged sun exposure during the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.).

It is important to know what heat related terms mean in order to plan days accordingly after listening to the weather forecast. These definitions will help you understand what exactly everyone is talking about when discussing the sweltering temperatures.

A heat wave is 48 hours, or more, of high heat and high humidity. Avoid staying outdoors for long periods of time during a heat wave.

The heat index is how hot it feels outside in degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity and the sun change the heat index, which may vary from the actual temperature. It is significant to know the heat index, because it indicates how hot the outdoors will feel to your body. Knowing only the actual outdoor temperature can be deceiving on humid and sunny days.

FIREWORKS SAFETY

Independence Day is on its way and the festive fireworks displays are a great way to honor our birthday. The bangs and booms can be heard for miles all evening long. Professionally sanctioned displays are beautiful, while others are considered dangerous and illegal in the city. Please keep a few simple things in mind when celebrating your holiday - use ear plugs if your ears are sensitive, never approach (or try to relight) unexploded fireworks, and keep an eye on pets, as fireworks can frighten them.

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