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Heatwave safety tips

If the symptoms of heat stroke continue for a prolonged period without treatment, severe organ injury and possibly death can result.

Delaware is downright sweltering right now.

Temperatures aren't expected to drop anytime soon. In fact, they're expected to remain in the 90s through August, and the humidity adds 10 degree or more to the heat index.

The Delaware Division of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have provided the following tips for people and pets to remain safe in high temperatures.

How to prevent heat illness

Do not leave people or pets alone in a parked car, even for a minute. Call 911 if you see anyone (a child or an adult with disabilities) who is unable to open a door or window and is left unattended in a vehicle. Keep your car locked when you’re not in it so children don’t get in on their own. If you see a pet left in a car, even with air-conditioning running, call 911 or Delaware Animal Services at 302-255-4646.

Also remember that any equipment left in a car can quickly become hot to the touch, especially metal pieces in child car seats, seat belt handles and wheelchairs. Check the temperature of these items prior to use to avoid potential burns.

Carry water with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks containing sugar, alcohol, or caffeine, which dehydrate the body. Check with a doctor before increasing fluid intake if you have epilepsy, heart, kidney or liver disease, or if you are on a fluid-restrictive diet. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician. 

Stay indoors on the lowest floor possible. When outdoors, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Wear a hat or use an umbrella. Use sunscreen with SPF 30+. Sunburn slows the skin’s ability to cool itself and has been linked to skin cancer.

Avoid extreme temperature changes. Be careful trying to cool down too quickly. Acold shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can lead to hypothermia, particularly for the elderly and children. In these cases, cool water is better than ice cold water.

Limit outdoor activity, especially mid-day when the sun is hottest. Exercise in the morning or in the early evening. 

Be aware of the danger signs

Heat cramps occur in the muscles of the limbs or abdomen during or after physical activity in high heat. Sweating results in a loss of fluids and salts that cause muscles to cramp.

Address heat cramps by resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water.

Heat exhaustion is more severe, occurring when a person is overheated and has a reduced or unbalanced intake of fluids. Symptoms include dehydration, fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, rapid breathing, irritability and fainting.

To reduce heat exhaustion, move the person indoors or into shade. Loosen or remove the person’s clothing. Encourage the person with heat exhaustion to eat and drink. Get the person to a cool shower or bath. Call your doctor for further advice.

Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer cool itself and can be a life-threatening event. Prompt medical treatment is required. Symptoms include: flushed, hot and dry skin with no sweating; high body temperature (above 103 degrees, taken orally); severe, throbbing headache; weakness, dizziness or confusion; sluggishness or fatigue; decreased responsiveness; and loss of consciousness.

If heat stroke occurs, call 911 immediately. Get the heat stroke victim indoors or into shade. Get the person into a cool shower or bath or wipe them down with continuously soaked cool washcloths while awaiting emergency services.

Keep pets safe

Know the risks. Animals at the greatest risk of stress from the heat include pregnant or lactating animals, very young and older animals, animals with darker coats, obese pets, short-nosed dog breeds and animals with chronic health conditions.

Knows the signs. Signs of heat stress in pets can include panting, increased salivation, restlessness, muscle spasms, increased heartbeat and body temperature, weakness, lack of coordination, bright red or pale and sticky gums, vomiting, diarrhea and depression. Seek immediate veterinary attention if your dog has become overheated and is showing any of these symptoms. Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to heat stroke in high temperatures, especially if there is high humidity, increased activity or little ventilation.

Never leave your pet in a vehicle, even in mild temperatures. Animals kept inside a vehicle in warm or hot temperatures are susceptible to heatstroke. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the interior of a vehicle can reach 89 degrees in just 10 minutes when the temperature outside is just 70 degrees. At 80 degrees outside, a vehicle’s interior can reach 99 degrees in that time. Temperatures will continue to rise inside a vehicle and cracking windows does little to help. Call 911, or Delaware Animal Services at 302-255-4646, immediately if you see a pet left unattended in a vehicle.

Pets must have shade and water when outdoors. The best place for pets in hot temperatures is inside the home. If a pet must be outside in the heat, make sure the animal has a shady area and fresh water to help stay cool. The interiors of cat and dog houses can get very hot in summer months and do not provide adequate shade. Delaware law prohibits leaving dogs outside and unattended for longer than 15 minutes during hazardous weather advisories or when hazardous weather conditions pose a serious risk to the health and safety of the dog.

Practice caution when walking dogs in the heat. The best time of day to walk dogs in summer months is in the early morning or late evening when the sun’s heat is not as intense. A simple touch of the hand to any surface where a walk is planned will tell if it’s too hot for a dog. If it’s too hot for a human hand, it’s too hot for a dog’s paws.