WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — High temperatures are forecasted across the DMV this week, and several places — including D.C. and Montgomery County — have declared heat emergencies over the weekend.
With this heat approaching, it’s important to know how to keep yourself safe and healthy.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said that it’s harder for your body to cool down on its own during hot and humid weather. This can lead to heat-related illnesses; including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that older adults, young children and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at the highest risk for heat-related illnesses; but young and healthy people can also be affected if they’re not careful.
Symptoms: Muscle cramps and spasms — usually in your legs and abdomen — and heavy sweating.
First Aid: Put firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage them. Give sips of water unless the person complains about nausea.
Heat cramps can lead to heat exhaustion or stroke. If someone is experiencing heat cramps for longer than one hour, get immediate medical attention. The CDC said that you should also get immediate medical help if you’re on a low sodium diet or have heart problems.
Symptoms: Heavy sweating; weakness or tiredness; cool, pale and/or clammy skin; fast and weak pulse; muscle cramps; dizziness; nausea or vomiting; headaches; fainting.
First Aid: Move the person to a cooler place, ideally a well-air-conditioned room. Loosen clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or have the person sit in a cool bath. Offer sips of water.
If the person vomits or the symptoms worsen or last for longer than one hour, get immediate medical attention.
Symptoms: Throbbing headache; confusion; nausea; dizziness; body temperature above 103°F; hot, red, dry or damp skin; rapid and strong pulse; fainting; loss of consciousness.
First Aid: If someone may be experiencing heat stroke, call 911 or get them to the hospital right away. You can take the person to a cooler place — ideally a well-air-conditioned room. You can lower their body temperature with cool cloths or a bath. Do NOT give someone suffering from heat stroke anything to drink.
“Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Delay can be fatal,” NWS said.
If you’re trying to cool down, NWS said that you should only use a fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. If the heat index is higher than that — it’s supposed to approach 110 this Friday — a fan may actually make you hotter.
The CDC reminded people to also keep an eye out for sunburns and heat rashes.
If you get a sunburn, the CDC said that you should stay out of the sun until the burn heals. You can put cool cloths on the burns or take a cool bath, and put a moisturizing lotion on to the burn. If the burn starts to blister, the CDC said not to break any blisters.
Heat rashes are red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples, according to the CDC. They typically appear on necks, chests or groins or in elbow creases. If you see this appear, the CDC said that you should keep the rash dry and use something like baby powder to soothe it.
The CDC said that heat-related illnesses are preventable. On days with hot weather, you should follow these tips to keep yourself safe:
- Wear appropriate clothing — lightweight and loose-fitting clothing is best;
- Stay in air-conditioned places as much as possible;
- Try to limit outdoor activity to when it’s coolest (such as mornings and evenings) and rest in shady areas when you can;
- Cut down on exercise during the heat — and stop if your heart starts pounding and you’re gasping for breath;
- Put on sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going out and reapply it through the day — sunscreens that say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on the labels work the best;
- Protect yourself from the sun even more with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses;
- Do not leave children or pets in cars, even if you have a window cracked;
- Stay hydrated — avoid sugary or alcoholic drinks and opt for things like sports drinks that can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat (avoid very cold drinks as well; they can cause stomach cramps) and
- Avoid hot and heavy meals.
The CDC said that staying informed about health tips and guidelines from local agencies as well as keeping an eye out for any heat-related symptoms is very important.