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Cumberland County Aging and Community Services issued a warning today that the extended high heat expected for the remainder of this week can cause severe illness and even death. Older adults, the very young, and those with medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes and chronic heart and lung disease are the most vulnerable and should take extra precautions.
“Exposure to extreme heat is one of the major weather-related causes of death," said David S. Miller, deputy director of the agency, “and most of those deaths are very preventable if people are aware of, and follow, some simple preventive measures."
"People who have access to at least three hours of air-conditioning a day are less likely to become ill or die. We urge everyone without air-conditioning to enjoy the afternoon hours at a nearby air-conditioned restaurant, library, shopping mall, movie theater or senior center.”
While the agency has a very limited number of fans it can loan to county residents age 60 or older during heat waves, Miller said that “people should not rely on fans alone because fans do not cool the air, they only help moisture such as sweat to evaporate. If you are using fans, you should take cool baths or spray yourself to get cooling from evaporation."
The agency offers these other tips for staying healthy during a heat wave:• avoid long periods in the sun;• avoid strenuous activities; • drink plenty of fluid, but avoid alcohol and caffiene; • wear lightweight, light colored, loose clothing; • call for help if you need it.
Also, watch for dangerous signs of heat overexposure, such as:• Dehydration: Extreme water loss reduces the body's ability to cool down and can lead to weakness, headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion and passing out. • Heat cramps: Muscle cramps, usually in the stomach or the legs, are the result of over-exercising in the heat and losing too much water and salt from heavy sweating. • Heat exhaustion: Marked by either heavy sweating or no sweating, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, paleness, cold or clammy skin, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting; body temperature may be normal. • Heat stroke: A life-threatening emergency (also known as sun stroke) that involves a body temperature of or above 103 degrees; red, hot and dry skin; a fast pulse; headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, confusion, and passing out.
Neighbors, friends and family can be of great assistance by checking on older people who live alone, families with very young children, and those with medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes and chronic heart and lung disease, especially if they have no working air-conditioning.