How to stay safe during the extreme heat

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the heat index potentially going over 100 degrees over the weekend, the Office of Public Health and Safety is encouraging people to take steps to stay safe.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States. Hundreds of people die every year due to heat, with even more suffering from heat-related illnesses.

The Office of Public Health and Safety offers these tips to stay safe in the extreme heat.

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Check on relatives and neighbors, especially the elderly and those without access to air conditioning.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
  • When outside, wear light, loose-fitting clothing and take frequent breaks in the shade or an air-conditioned room.
  • Learn what the signs and symptoms are for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Seek medical attention if symptoms occur.
  • Look before you lock! Pay special attention when locking up vehicles to ensure no children or pets are left inside. Temperatures inside a car can become lethal in a matter of minutes.
  • Bring pets indoors and ensure they have plenty of water to drink.

During extremely hot and humid weather, the NWS says the body’s ability to cool itself is challenged. This may cause heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

The NWS says people should be on the lookout for heat cramps, as they may be the first sign of heat-related illness, and may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke. Symptoms of heat cramps include painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in legs and abdomen and heavy sweating.

If someone notices anyone experiencing these symptoms, they should apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm and give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea, then stop giving water.

Indianapolis residents looking to stay cool can visit open public buildings and Indy Parks facilities. However, they may be operating with limited hours and capacity restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those visiting these locations are strongly encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines when visiting these locations and are required to wear masks in public beginning July 9.
 
The NWS also offers these tips on responding to excessive heat events:

  • Slow down: reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. Children, seniors and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Eat light, cool, easy-to-digest foods such as fruit or salads. If you pack food, put it in a cooler or carry an ice pack. Don’t leave it sitting in the sun. Meats and dairy products can spoil quickly in hot weather.
  • Drink plenty of water (not very cold), non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you on a fluid restrictive diet or have a problem with fluid retention, consult a physician before increasing consumption of fluids. 
  • Use air conditioners or spend time in air-conditioned locations such as malls and libraries.
  • Use portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air.
  • Do not direct the flow of portable electric fans toward yourself when room temperature is hotter than 90°F. The dry blowing air will dehydrate you faster, endangering your health.
  • Minimize direct exposure to the sun. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
  • Take a cool bath or shower.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.
  • Check on older, sick, or frail people who may need help responding to the heat. Each year, dozens of children and untold numbers of pets left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia.  Keep your children, disabled adults, and pets safe during tumultuous heat waves.
  • Don’t leave valuable electronic equipment, such as cell phones and GPS units, sitting in hot cars.
  • Make sure rooms are well vented if you are using volatile chemicals.

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