Stillwater News Press

Local News

July 25, 2012

Health department issues tips to handle the heat

STILLWATER, Okla. — As temperatures continue in the high 90s and low 100s this month, summer has not only brought the heat, but possible dangers with it.

Payne County Health Department issued a statement cautioning those outside to take precautions in order to avoid heat-related issues.

Among the tips the department gives is to drink more fluids no matter what you may be doing and to avoid sugary drinks or alcohol as these will lower your amount of body fluid.

“Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps,” the statement said.

While summer is a time to visit the beach and to partake in activities like sports, Payne County Health Department advises to stay indoors if possible and to take frequent breaks to escape the heat.

When it comes to clothing, lightweight and light colored, loose fitting clothes are the best option, according to the department’s release.

Age is a factor that needs to be considered when enjoying the summer months. Young children and infants, as well as those 65 or older, are more prone to have heat-related illnesses. The list of those more susceptible also includes those with mental and physical illnesses.

“The elderly, infants and young children are at higher risk of heat-related illnesses,” said Pam Dvorak, District Nurse Manager for Payne County Health Department. “They may not be able to adjust to increases in air temperatures, or may take medications that decrease their ability to deal with heat.”

For those who work outside or cannot avoid spending prolonged time in the sun, Dvorak suggested tips such as limiting activity to morning and evening hours if possible, taking rest in a shaded area and protecting yourself by wearing sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher with sunglasses and a hat. Many places in Stillwater will allow you to take shelter from the heat, including the Stillwater Public Library and the Salvation Army. The release also cautions against exercising in extreme heat.

Payne County residents are reminded to not leave their children or pets inside a car.

Katherine Howser has volunteered for the Stillwater Humane Society for four years. She said pets inside are generally not a concern because air conditioning and water is usually available. Pets outside are okay as long as they have shade and other care.

“And plenty of water; drinking water and a pool,” Howser said. “Dogs don’t sweat, so as long as they can cool off their entire body, they’ll be good.”

Howser suggests changing the pool water every hour to keep it cool. Director Jackie Ross-Guerrero also suggests keeping pets off hot pavement and sidewalks when walking. The hot surface can burn dogs’ paws, she said.

Shelter Director for Animal Welfare Mary Dickey spoke of city laws that protect pets in harsh temperatures.

“(One law) says it’s unlawful to keep a pet enclosed within a vehicle or the bed of a parked truck in ambient temperature which exceeds 79 degree Fahrenheit unless that animal is enclosed within that vehicle with air conditioning on,” Dickey said.

Animal cruelty laws state that pet owners cannot deprive their pets of shade and water.

“Some people have a dog house and say, ‘There’s shade,’ but that doesn’t work because that builds up heat,” Dickey said.

Owners need a tree or sun shades that attach to a fence; something a dog can get under, she said.

Dickey said many owners will be alerted to the needed changes and comply. Tickets can be $249 for those who don’t.

“We are not out to write tickets,” Dickey said. “We just want the animals to be safe.”

Local Emergency Response Coordinator Priscilla Smith said a big problem is the lack of realization when it comes to what our bodies may be telling us.

“It’s just that we get outside and we get busy and we don’t think about what our body’s needs are,” Smith said.

She said it’s important to listen to your body and not put it off. There are telltale signs of the heat’s effects.

“They’re going to feel faint,” Smith said. “They’re going to feel weak. They may have muscle cramps. The same kind of things athletes feel when they are on the field. Dehydration will affect your entire body.”

Many will quit perspiring if affected. She said to not drink soda.

“It’s not really a hydrator,” Smith said. “You need to be sure to replenish what your body is losing.”

If out on a boat or the water, effects can be worse because of the sun and heat reflecting off the water.

“If people can’t wear a hat for some other reason they need to put a wet towel over their head or around their neck,” Smith said. “The moisture and the cool air blowing through will help the body to retain moisture and keep it cooler.”

For more information on the heat exhaustion and other heat related illnesses, visit http://www.ok.gov/health/.

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