Tips to Stay Safe and Cool During High Heat and Humidity

July 17, 2020

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - Allegheny County Emergency Services, The Health Department, and Human Services have joined up to offer tips and tricks for residents to prepare for and stay safe during the expected heat and humidity of the dog days of summer.

According to the Allegheny County Emergency Services: "Extreme heat can occur quickly and without warning, and it often results in the highest number of annual deaths nationwide among weather-related hazards. In hot conditions, evaporation is slowed, and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. High humidity increases the risk of heat-related health issues.”

Ways to stay vigilant during the heat include understanding the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, dehydration, or other heat-related illnesses and how to respond quickly. 

From Allegheny County Emergency Services: “Heat cramps and heat exhaustion can result in muscle pains or spasms, heavy sweating, paleness, weakness, dizziness, headache, or fainting. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should go to a cooler location, loosen or remove clothing, take sips of cool sports drinks, and get medical help if the symptoms last more than an hour. Signs of heat stroke include an extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees taken orally); red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness.”

If you are experiencing these symptoms or witness someone else exhibiting these signs, call 911 or get the person to a hospital.

Allegheny County Emergency Services is also reminding everyone that some of the symptoms might overlap with those of COVID-19 and to bear in mind staving off the summer heat can also be mindful of coronavirus spreading: practice social distancing, avoid large crowds, wear a mask, replace your mask if it gets too wet or sweaty, and keep your mouth and nose covered. 

People can also get ahead of the curve by stocking up on food and drinks, checking with doctors to confirm proper medication storage during the heat, and double-checking that all fans and air conditioners are operational.

In case of a power outage, make sure you have stocked nonperishables, have battery operated equipment, and have a charged phone.

Some home heat preventive measures include setting up drapes or blinds, installing weather stripping on doors and windows, establishing reflectors in the windows, installing insulation, and using attic fans.

It’s also recommended that you keep tabs on the weather; extreme heat can bring flash storms with the potential of heavy rainfall and flooding.

If there's flooding, don’t proceed; turn around.

Some general tips and tricks to help deal with extreme heat include:

- Drink plenty of water, even if you’re not thirsty
- Keep yourself cool by using wet towels, putting your feet in cool water, and by taking cool showers
- Spend as much time as possible in cool or air-conditioned buildings, preferably in your home, if possible.
- Remember to avoid crowds indoors, keep six feet from others, and wear a maskBlock out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds
- Open the windows when there is a cool breezeStay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. If you do have to go outside, wear a hat and sunscreen and seek shade
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibers like cotton and linen
- Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salads.
- Make sure food that needs refrigeration is properly stored.Avoid heavy activity like sports, renovating, and gardening.
- Watch or listen to news reports to find out more information during extreme heat.

According to The Allegheny County Health Department, everyone can be affected by the heat, but some groups are more prone to the heat’s effects than others, such as elders, babies, children, those who are overweight or have pre-existing medical conditions, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with disabilities, people who take medication who might be affected by an increase in temperature, those who work outside, and individuals who might have moved from a cooler climate.

The Allegheny County Health Department also reminds people to never leave pets or children in hot vehicles.

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services is asking that you keep any eye on the elderly during waves of intense heat.

If you have concern for an elder during the heat, you can reach out to SeniorLife at 412-350-5460.

If you plan on checking in on an older individual, use some of the following tips:

- Offer a glass of water or a non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage. Sit with them as they drink it. If plain water is boring, try one of the no-calorie, fruit-flavored waters.
- Check for breathing difficulty or other signs of distress, such as swelling of the ankles or disorientation. Seek medical attention if needed or call a medical professional for advice.
- Check to see that window air-conditioning units are operating in good order. If there is no air conditioning, make sure that there is good cross-ventilation aided by fans.
- Check to see that they are eating. If they are not eating because of lack of appetite, try offering light protein-laden foods, such as fully cooked eggs, cottage cheese, or lentils.

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